What is the Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP)?
The Australian Coal Industry’s Research Program (ACARP) is a collaborative program that utilises the experience and technical strength of both the coal mining industry and research institutions in solving technical problems and addressing issues of significance to the industry’s long term future. Any proposed research project that is strongly supported by a mine site and is of interest to a number of coal operations is encouraged. Safety and environment remain key drivers in the program and will continue to be the focus of much of the underground work and a significant component of the open cut and coal preparation programs.
ACARP is a unique and highly successful mining research program that has been running in Australia since it was established in 1992. It is 100% owned and funded by all Australian black coal producers through a five cents per tonne levy paid on saleable coal.
ACARP’s research covers a wide range of important areas including all aspects of the production and utilisation of black coal including health, safety and the environment.
ACARP has contributed to Australian coal research in a way that individual companies could not have otherwise achieved. It combines resources and expertise from individual producers and shares the risks and benefits across the industry. The ACARP model has effectively demonstrated the wisdom of pooling research funds with the benefit of considerable leverage of R&D expenditures to address wider industry problems.
The research prioritise have been developed by the five technical committees responsible for project development and selection. The categories to which these priorities relate are:
The Underground Committee is seeking research proposals to materially improve the health, safety and sustainability of underground mining operations. In particular, the industry is seeking research proposals dedicated to addressing the following:
- Extending automation and remote operation technologies for roadway development and longwall operations, with the aim of reaching a point where there is no need for anyone to be working at the mining face. This will significantly reduce risks associated with the mining environment (geotechnical, ventilation, spontaneous combustion, heat, gas, vehicle interactions and manual handling) and the potential exposure to airborne respirable dust, silica and diesel particulate matter (DPM).
- Improving first response (including evacuation and escape) and mine re-entry capabilities, including improved understanding of emergency exclusion zones (radius).
- Making better use of available data for risk management and improved performance, including rapid adoption of new technologies and processes as well as incorporating fast, efficient data collation, analysis and dissemination.
- Providing improved understanding of geological conditions to be encountered prior to mining.
Open Cut Priorities
The Open Cut Committee are prioritising research in key areas with the aim of moving the industry to where it needs to be within the next ten years to ensure ongoing viability. The key areas are:
- Lower the cost of mining by increased use of technology to assist with mining operations, such as by introducing more efficient overburden removal by continuous cutting.
- Enhance the control effectiveness of what we have to keep people safe through technology enhancing existing controls or replacing them. Examples such as being able to better predict wall and dam stability, and increased enhancement or automation of processes that eliminate or mitigate harm to personnel.
- Sustain our licence to develop and extend, especially in regards to resource development, permits (creek diversions, clearing, habitat), reserves, water, voids and offsets.
- Develop viable options to the consequences of ongoing liability, post mining back‐filling and increased rehabilitation costs for Final Land Form and Beneficial Usage by being able to demonstrate viable and science‐proven activities for rehabilitation land and the alternative use of final voids.
Coal Preparation Priorities
The industry faces a range of challenges which, in coal preparation research, translate to:
- Health, safety and environmental improvements.
- Energy and water efficiency improvements.
- Optimal resource/reserve recovery within specification.
Technical Market Support Priorities
Australian coal producers face increasing competition for market share from:
- Coal users seeking to reduce cost through lower quality coals, substitutes and alternate technologies.
- Increasing regulation impacting traded coal quality, transport and utilisation.
These pressures can, in part, be met through development of new applications for coal.
The Technical Market Support Committee seeks to address pressures and deliver maximum market benefit for Australian coals through selection, funding and monitoring of priority research projects.
The Committee also encourages the adoption of new analytical techniques, equipment and innovative technologies that have been successfully used in other areas of science and technology.
Environment and Community Priorities
The industry is calling for research to enable it to continually improve its ability to manage environment and community issues. Research is needed to fill knowledge gaps in, and identify, future issues such that stakeholders have confidence in the industry’s ability to manage and reduce its impacts.
Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Priorities
Fugitive gases are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from coal mining operations and as such are a primary focus of the Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Committee. The industry seeks innovative means for mitigation and accurate measurement of fugitive mine site gas emissions.
Before submitting a proposal in this area, it should be noted that:
- Demonstration and large scale test work is beyond the financial capability of ACARP.
- The Committee will only consider proposals addressing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of coal, not due to the utilisation of coal.
- Commercial power generation technologies for high purity methane such as drainage gas are being increasingly adopted and are not seen as a high priority for further ACARP research.
Research in the following areas should be considered.
- Improved health and safety
- Improved technical assessment of coal deposits
- Resource Evaluation
- Strata Control and Hydrology
- Higher productivity mining
- Mining systems and equipment reliability
- Ventilation and gas management
- Coal burst