“Vitrinite goes above and beyond for the community.” We speak to the executive team at Vitrinite about the company’s recent people-centric operations in Queensland’s coal mining space
Writer: Marcus Kääpä | Project Manager: Thomas Arnold
Australian mining is a giant industry spanning the production of metals and minerals from bauxite (aluminium ore), iron ore, and lithium, to gold, lead, and diamond, and even rarer earth elements such as industrially precious zinc and notorious uranium.
Australian coal mining is yet another substantial sub-sector within the mining sphere. Up until 2020, declining at the end of the decade due largely to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian coal export was valued at approximately $54 billion, having doubled throughout the past 10 years. Now, with global-scale COVID-19 vaccine rollouts, the sector is somewhat climbing back to normality.
For Nicholas Williams, co-founder and Managing Director of Vitrinite, the coal mining industry is home. Having grown up around mining sites, it was only natural for Williams to follow the path into the industry that his father before him pursued.
“Mining is in my blood; my family has been in the industry for a very long time,” he begins. “I have been fascinated with mining especially coal, and currently the industry is an incredibly exciting space to be in. We at Vitrinite are proud to be part of it.”
Vitrinite was founded by Williams and his fellow colleagues Ryan Welker (co-founder and Director) and Matt Burgess (co-founder and Director).
Based in and operating within Queensland, Vitrinite is a privately owned coal mining company holding an extensive strategic coking coal tenement portfolio within the area’s world-class Bowen Basin. The company’s assets are situated in close proximity to operating mines, infrastructure and proven economic resources. Vitrinite is currently focused on opening it’s first hard coking coal mine, Vulcan, as well as executing an exploration drilling and definition programme of JORC resources across multiple other sites, representing the next generation of premium tier one assets in Australia.
“Our people – they make Vitrinite”
Vitrinite’s current primary focus rests on its recent Vulcan Mine Complex, acquired in September 2018.
Named after the Roman god of fire and metallurgy, the Vulcan Complex is an open cut mine reaching depths of 100 metres, containing multiple target coal seams with premium hard coking coal properties, and is located on the Collinsville shelf on the central western margin of the Bowen Basin.
“Vulcan will be Queensland’s newest premium hard coking coal mine,” Williams continues. “It is a truck and shovel operation and will be in the lowest decile for operating costs across mines in the area that provides premier coal.
“We have a brilliant family-style workforce with this project. Vitrinite has a great partnership with companies that it works alongside on Vulcan, such as our mining contractor, Turner Engineering and our drill and blast company, Black Rock.”
The Vulcan Complex has over a 55 kilometres strike of confirmed hard coking coal adjacent to world benchmark premium hard coking coal mines and has high fluidity across its three primary target seams.
On top of this, Vitrinite’s Karin Basin and Wilson Creek projects are at the forefront of the company’s focus at present.
The first is a high-fluidity coking coal deposit based south of Clermont, whereas the Wilson Creek project will provide a very low strip ratio thermal coal with a coking fraction deposit based near the township of Glendon.
“Vulcan is currently our key asset,” Williams tells us. “Building a coal mine isn’t easy, so we are committed to getting this right for the business and the local community.”
Alongside these major projects, Vitrinite is partnering with external businesses in operational regions, all the while maintaining a key focus on the elements that make the company what it is.
“We are working with a company called 1064 Gold which is active in the Clermont area where the Karin Basin is,” he tells us. “We noticed that it was a prolific gold district, so we duplicated the toolbox that we developed for Vitrinite and can now deploy it through 1064 Gold in a promising partnership.
“But another considerable investment that we are making is in our people – they make Vitrinite. We hire people based on their attitude and willingness to be flexible. The company is absolutely 100 percent built on our investment in our own employees.”
People at the Fore
This employee-centric attitude is a paramount part of Vitrinite’s operation, and the company makes sure to not only reward but develop its workforce for the betterment of individual employees and the business as a whole.
“On top of making work financially rewarding we do a lot for our employees in the area of career development and progress in terms of what they each personally want to achieve,” he informs us. “This varies from growing their skills and experience within their company roles to progress in alternative areas of the company.
“At Vitrinite we try to look at individual peoples’ full capabilities from the hiring process to years into their positions. From the beginning we look at where a specific person may sit in the company five or even ten years down the line, as opposed to just in singularity to their current role.
“There are numerous examples of people in the company who have taken on very different roles into the present than what they initially began with.”
“Vitrinite goes above and beyond for the community”
And Vitrinite’s people focus is not only internal. As a smaller and more localised company in the industry, Vitrinite remains deeply connected to the local communities in which it operates. Stemming from this connection, the company makes sure to support the community in a variety of ways.
“We are relatively new compared to other businesses in the industry and region, so the local community is very important to us” states Williams. “We try and use locals wherever we can in the business and so we have a lot of positive local supply chain members that provide their services and trades that work really well with us.
“Vitrinite also makes sure that all of its employees have proper housing, on top of supporting local sports clubs, because ultimately we really want to make an actual difference in the community. Vitrinite goes above and beyond for the community.”
“We make our decisions as if we live in that community, and they are based on what we want to see if we were to live there,” Welker adds. “Vitrinite is constantly thinking about the whole lifecycle of these operations. From starting explorations to the closing of sites in many decades to come, we ask ourselves: what will the land look like for those that we leave behind? And because of this we try to be good stewards of the land.”
The Fore and Future
Vitrinite’s core goals moving forward are to become the lowest cost high-quality producer of coal while maintaining its unwavering commitment to safety.
“Embodying this, we want to build and retain a world-class culture on-site,” Williams tells us. “Quality culture means a positively driven workforce, and happy employees leads to productive minds behind our company operations.
“With this productivity in mind, our goal is to produce between 1.6 and 1.7 million tonnes of coal in the first year so that we are well on target to supply our premium hard coking coal to the international market.”
Vitrinite goes above and beyond for the community