More than just MACHINES

A new mining equipment manufacturing and service centre for the Hunter Valley is aiding growth in the region.

The site will manufacture and service coal mining equipment.

Despite apparent turmoil gripping the global mining industry, Australia is still riding high on its resources and mining know-how.

Recognising the still high demand for Australian mining equipment, Valley Longwall International have taken a major step forward.

Valley Longwall International (VLI) have opened a new headquarters and service centre just outside of Newcastle, that will contribute an estimated to $150m to the local economy.

At the opening was the NSW minister for resources and energy Chris Hartcher, as well as members of local parliament, and a high level delegation from China's Taiyuan Mining Machinery Group Coal Machine Company (TMG), which is a major shareholder of VLI.

The new centre of excellence will supply specialised equipment and allied services to the coal mining industry, both here and overseas, predominately to China and the US.

The new centre will manufacture and service Australian-made mining equipment such as drift runners, drill rigs and jugs.

The site will be home to over 200 staff, with more than 12 research and development staff at the Beresfield site.

"The centre of excellence will provide a major boost to the local Newcastle economy and it will be our centre for developing new technology and driving safety improvements and training for our employees who work in the longwall coal mining industry," said VLI CEO Brett Lynch.

VLI, a majority Chinese-owned company, operates specialise in drilling, diesel and conveyor systems generating over $60 million in exports.

The NSW minister for resources and energy said the new centre signalled the growing trade ties between Australia and China. Previously the main trade between the Australian mining industry and China was essentially just ore, however now there is a growing focus on the additional skills that Australia's industry can bring particularly in terms of technology, safety, and experience.

"Up until now there has been a concern that Chinese investment was simply on raw materials but now we're seeing a new stage of Chinese investment.

This is exemplified in this centre, in resource enrichment and the development of ancillary industries to support the mining industry rather than simply mining itself," Hartcher told Australian Mining.

"It's very important and we would like to see it encouraged more and we want to see a far more mature relationship between our trade and China rather than simply 'we're the raw materials, we're the producer and you're the consumer.'

"This is now the start of a good two way trade."

However Lynch added that even though there is now a greater Chinese influence and stake in Valley Longwall's operations and focus "Australia will remain a home for VLI's research and development centres covering underground diesel equipment, drill rigs, and bulk materials handling equipment".

Hartcher said he expected the recent slump in the coal market to improve, and touted the new centre as proof investors had not lost confidence in the sector.

"The mining industry is cyclical, it's essentially export orientated, we think the scene for the markets is still good, obviously it's not as good as it was, but there's also a need for mining for the domestic consumption so centres like this will always have an important place," he said.

"They may not be on such a high as they used to be, but we expect that high to return."

Lynch echoed this sentiment: "The industry will ebb and flow, but if we've got that quality base, that technical advantage, we will see the storms and troughs through.

"VLI is committed to delivering high quality, innovative solutions for all types of mining, transportation and bulk materials handling industries.

"That is why we have invested in developing this new Centre of Excellence," he stated.