David Moult, CEO & MD, Centennial Coal provided the first Austmine networking session of 2017 last week. The event was sponsored by Joy Global and Akzo Nobel, and the audience first heard from Jason Savage, President Australia at Joy Global and Kriben Thambiran, Project Manager – Northern, at Akzo Nobel.Moult has been with Centennial Coal for the last 20 years and has over 37 years of coal mining experience. He is stepping down from his role with Centennial at the end of March (EGM of Operations, Mick Cairney, will step up into the role), but Moult will remain on the board of Centennial and is still heavily invested in its future.The title of his presentation was In a Changing Market Where Will Centennial’s Growth come from?, in which he discussed three key areas:Where’s the market now and what does it mean for a company investing into the sector?Centennial’s projects: their status and pending tendering timelinesLow emission power stations.He quickly went through a summary of Centennial Coal’s business, which includes five underground operating mines, all managed on an owner-operator model, with 60% domestic sales vs. 40% export sales. He also shared some insights into Centennial’s strategy plan from the end of 2016, which included acknowledgment of key external events impacting on the Australian energy market, such as the commencement in 2016 of major Queensland LNG export projects, the 2020 Renewable Energy Target of 33TWh and 2030 COP21 Paris targets.Moult then went on to touch on global issues that are affecting the coal market in Australia, including the growth from 2015 – 2016 of demand from China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines (although this was hindered somewhat by a drop in demand from Europe, driven largely by the UK limited coal imports). China’s greatest focus is on employment, and the coal prices last year made many Chinese coal mines unfeasible. David noted that on a global scale, the volume of coal being produced in China will maintain its dominant position, but in regards to its percentage contribution to domestic energy, there is strong growth in renewables and nuclear. India is of course another country that’s been on many lips over the last few years, with some banking on it to replace China in terms of demand and others dismissing it. Moult commented that the Indian government is pushing state-owned power plants, that can be supplied by Indian mines. There was expectation of huge growth in demand from India, which hasn’t happened, but he warned the audience: “You ignore India at your peril!”.He then moved on to focus on Centennial, and he started with its key takeaways for 2017:Maintain cost and productivity focusOptimise opportunity to take advantage of higher export pricesContinuous drive for operational efficiencyMaximise cash generation.Centennial evaluates different growth options in a couple of ways: firstly, in relation to organic versus inorganic growth and secondly in relation to risk, taking into account the current portfolio. He mentioned that 2016 was a good time to look at distressed assets (inorganic growth), but currently Centennial is focused on organic growth and their existing assets: Airly, Angus Place, Neubeck and Newstan.Centennial is an underground coal miner, but would like to consider some open-pit mines in the future, to balance the high risk of being an underground miner. He summed up this risk nicely: “No matter how many boreholes you put down, you can’t know everything that’s below the seam.”.Centennial has an emphasis on capital productivity, and sees a major part of the solution to this as being technology and automation. Springvale mine’s longwall is fully automated and using guidance technology built out of the USA which he was very impressed by: “Once you press the button, it keeps that machine here. I started working in longwall back in the 1970s and I’ve never seen a longwall as consistently straight as that!”Bolting automation has been another area of focus, in particular the idea of spin to stall, which saves seconds per bolt: when you’re putting thousands of bolts in per year, that’s a lot of time. Centennial Coal has invested in its own operations centre at Fassifern (he noted it also takes advantage of Joy Global’s “incredibly advanced” operations centre, as Centennial is a client of Joy), where engineers can do some real-time data analysis and feed it back to the operations teams. Some 50–60% of the machines (going across cutting, haulage and feeder breakers) are on real time monitoring and pumping out reports which are presented in a tactical dashboard. This is occurring across all of Centennial’s mines and it’s working well, allowing the supervisors on shift to make informed decisions.Moult pointed out that Centennial is passionate about its partnerships: “We do have some very strong supplier relationships and I think over the last few years they have strengthened.” Over 2,000 suppliers work with Centennial, and it is partnering with OEMs and universities on researching and developing new technology, ranging from proximity detection, auto-bolters (he urged the audience to speed up developing these, as they are critical for the sector) and remote power supply created by conveyor rollers, a suggestion which prompted a lot of nodding heads in the audience. Moult then went into detail on each of Centennial’s four projects that form the focus for the years up to 2023. He discussed timelines on tendering, production, and the specific mining method that will allow Centennial to remain sustainable and competitive into the future.