Caval Ridge Project

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The Caval Ridge Project is an existing open-cut expansion of the Peak Downs mine. It is a project currently operated by Thiess and owned by BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), formerly BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance.[1][2]

The project is located 20 km south-west of Moranbah, in Queensland, Australia, north of the existing Peak Downs Mine, on the northern and southern sides of the Peak Downs Highway.[3] The mine is expected to have a lifespan of 30 years.[4]


The satellite image below shows the exact location of the mine.

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Caval Ridge mine opened in October 2014.[5] Bechtel, an engineering, construction and project management company, designed and built Caval Ridge.[6]

An Environmental Impact Statement was completed by 2010. At that time there was a notional commissioning date for the mine expansion is 2013. The project would produce 5.5 million tonnes of coking coal and employ 1200 people during construction and 500 when operating.[7][3]

In its July 2010 development report, BHP Billiton announced that the board had approved US$2.4 billion of "pre-commitment expenditure was approved to accelerate development" of four projects, one of them being the Caval Ridge project.[8]

In 2010 federal election, the Queensland Labor government announced that it had given approval to the project "subject to a raft of strict development and operating constraints". (For the federal Labor government, Queensland electorates were crucial to retaining government, especially following the dumping of Queensland-based Kevin Rudd as Prime Minister). The go-ahead for the project was announced by Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser, and Infrastructure and Planning Minister, Stirling Hinchliffe. [9]

The Queensland Government's media release stated that the Coordinator General’s conditions require:

  • "A network of 16 air monitoring stations located around the mine and towards the Moranbah township";
  • "A Housing Impact Plan to provide worker accommodation and related accommodation in Moranbah"; and
  • "Implementation of controls to guard against adverse weather conditions".[9]

Fraser told ABC Radio that "this is a massive project, a $5.5 million tonne expansion, which of itself represents about 2 per cent just by itself of the total coal which is being exported in Queensland at the moment."[10]

A spokeswoman for BHP Billiton stated that BMA would "continue to conduct an open and transparent engagement process with stakeholders".[11]

Caval Ridge Southern Circuit

BHP Mitsubishi Alliance will invest US$204 million to totally fund the Caval Ridge Southern Circuit project. This is an 11 kilometre overland conveyor system which will transport coal from Peak Downs mine to the Coal Handling Preparation Plant at the nearby Caval Ridge Mine.[12] The name of the partnership changed when BHP changed its name from BHP Billiton in November 2018.[13]

Greenhouse emissions

In a 2009 project summary on the project, BHP Billiton states that the total direct emissions "from sources within the boundary of the Caval Ridge Coal Mine project", from sources such as "diesel consumption in vehicles, explosives and fugitive emissions of coal seam gas", as 8.1 million million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents over the life of the mine. It estimates that a further 11.1 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents over the life of the mine from indirect sources such as "from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam or heat produced by another organisation. These include purchasing electricity for draglines, CHPP, lighting and facilities".[14]

They also estimated that 446.77 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the life of the mine from all other sources of emissions such as "the end use of coal, transport of coal via rail to the port, handling of coal at the ports and shipping of coal."[14]

BMA notes that "the end use of coal in metallurgical operations such as steel making accounts for 99 per cent of the Scope 3 emission sources considered in this assessment."[14]

In 2009, the total Australian greenhouse gas emissions, excluding those from land use, land use change and forestry activities, were estimated to be 537 million tonnes.[15]

Ecological impacts

In the creation of the Caval Ridge mine Betchel relocated 10,000 animals. "One of many species rescued and relocated by Caval Ridge crews was the echidna—a spiny, ant-eating, egg-laying relative of the platypus."[6]

Export infrastructure

Coal is transported by rail to BMA's Hay Point Coal Terminal for export.[6]


When the mine opened in October 2014 Mitsubishi said it was possible that they might look to expand this mine, prior to 2020.[16][17] In December 2017 an article in the Morning Bulletin said that Caval Ridge could be expanded by an additional 2 million tonnes a year.[18]

As of 2021, the company is continuing to pursue plans for an expansion.[19] If approved, the extension is projected to extend the mine’s life from the 2030s to the 2050s.[20]

In November 2022, the Caval Ridge mine expansion project gained publicity for being one of several projects located in Great Barrier Reef catchments and floodplains that was exempted from needing an environmental impact statement (EIS) by the Queensland government because it is proposed it would produce less than two million tonnes of coal a year. Without an EIS, the public could be excluded from providing comments on the project's terms of reference. This would instead leave the mining company to largely define what issues they address in their environmental assessments.[21]

Project Details

  • Sponsor: BHP Mitsubishi Alliance
  • Parent Company: BHP and Mitsubishi
  • Location: 20 km south-west of Moranbah, in Queensland, Australia.
  • GPS Coordinates: -22.1056069, 148.0475444 (exact)
  • Status: Operating
  • Production: 7.8 million tonnes (2021)[22]
  • Proposed Expansion: 8Mt/year revised to 7.5 Mt/year[18] [23]
  • Total Resource: 774 Mt[24]
  • Mineable Reserves: 207 million tonnes
  • Coal type: Metallurgical[24]
  • Mine Size: 1425 hectares (lease size)[3]
  • Mine Type: surface mining[24]
  • Start Year: 2014
  • Source of Financing:

Articles and resources


  1. BHP "Annual Report 2019", Our Charter Page A, May 2019.
  2. "Thiess secures 12-month Caval Ridge extension", World Coal, 12 May 2022.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, fact sheet: Caval Ridge Mine", (no longer available) BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, January 2010.
  4. "Caval Ridge", Mining Links website, accessed 14 October 2019.
  5. BHP, "BHP Billiton Opens Caval Ridge Metallurgical Coal Mine in Central Queensland", 13 October 2014.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Bechtel, "Caval Ridge Mine Project, Queensland, Australia", Betchel website, accessed 15 October 2019.
  7. Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics, "Minerals and energy: Major development projects", April 2010. (Pdf). The list is also available in Excel format here.)
  8. BHP Billiton, "BHP Billiton Exploration and Development Report for the quarter development report for the quarter ended 30 June 2010", Media Release, July 21, 2010.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Andrew Fraser, "Caval Ridge Mine Clears State's Environmental Assessment", Treasurer and Minister for Employment and Economic Development, Media Release, August 12, 2010.
  10. Emma Pollard, "Timeframe for Caval Ridge coal mine expansion 'acceptable'", ABC News, August 13, 2010.
  11. Matthew Murphy, " Coking coal joint venture clears the green hurdle", Sydney Morning Herald, August 13, 2010.
  12. BHP website"Construction of Caval Ridge Southern Circuit approved", 21 April 2017.
  13. BHP "Annual Report 2019", Our Charter Page A, May 2019.
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, "Caval Ridge Coal Mine Project: Environmental Impact Statement Community Overview", BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, July 2009, page 18.
  15. Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, "Australia's emissions", Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency website, July 28, 2010.
  16. Mitsubishi Corporation, "Mitsubishi Corporation Announces Opening of Caval Ridge Coal Mine in Australia", Mitsubishi Press Release, 13 October 2014.
  17. Sarah-Jane Tasker, "BHP defies coal gloom with opening of Caval Ridge mine in Bowen Basin", The Ausrtalian Business Review (Subscription), 13 October 2014.
  18. 18.0 18.1 Leighton Smith, "Booming coking coal prices leads the way to jobs for CQ",The Morning Bulletin, 12 December 2017.
  19. Canal Ridge Extension on the Cards for BMA, Australian Mining, September 13, 2021
  20. Caval Ridge Mine Horse Pit Extension, BHP website, accessed 10 June, 2022.
  21. "Coal projects in Great Barrier Reef catchments approved without environmental impact statements", The Guardian, 11 Nov. 2022.
  22. BHP Annual Report, 2021
  23. "Cavil Ridge Coal Mine, Central Queensland," "MiningTechnology," accessed June 2020.
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 BHP, "Annual Report 2019", Page 282, May 2019.

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