How to safely conduct a mine site dispersal

There’s a lot to consider when conducting a full mine dispersal.

The number of buyers both on-site and online, quantity and quality of assets, location, catering, traffic control and the market landscape, among other factors, all contribute to not only a financially successful sale, but also one that is safe. When it comes to conducting an on-site mine dispersal, it’s important to engage experienced professionals who are well equipped to navigate the risks, dangers and myriad of issues that can be expected, which can reduce the chance of negative incidents.

Hassalls recently managed an on-site auction of assets from the Hunter Valley’s Drayton coal mine, featuring more than 1,200 lots of workshop equipment and heavy earthmoving machinery (HME) worth more than $8 million dollars. The auction, which was a monumental logistical challenge, ran smoothly with no injuries or incidents regardless of the 500-odd buyers on-site. There are a number of key learnings that can be taken from the unique nature and success of this auction, some of which are outlined below.

Consider whether assets need to be auctioned on-site

Before planning around the logistical, safety and operational risks sure to influence an auction, it’s imperative to confirm there aren’t preferable marketing avenues that can be employed to sell assets for maximum return. Private Treaty, Tender, Online Auction and Equipment Listings can all draw optimum prices for assets dependent on a range of factors, including class-specific demand, market standing, commodity prices and adjacent industry activity (i.e. civil construction, agriculture, etc.).

In the case of the Drayton dispersal, a renewed sense of optimism and surging commodity prices earlier in the year brought significant demand for mining assets to the Hunter Valley region. Due to this, an on-site auction was chosen to drive bids high and secure a positive outcome for our vendor.

Auction site layout

Once an on-site auction has been confirmed as the best strategy, the next step is to conduct an analysis of the mine site to identify how the assets can be positioned to capitalise on a range of factors. If the mine is operational at the time of sale, first make necessary arrangements to ensure the assets up for sale can be auctioned off at a safe distance from operational machinery, adhering to any on-site policies, regulations and preferences from the vendor. If an auction is not likely to work well on a mine site, it can be a good idea to set up a yard nearby where assets can be moved to, ideally with public road access.

Once the auction ground is sorted, identify the desired path for buyer traffic and assign locations based on interest for specific asset and lot classes to maximise sale value. To use Drayton as an example, Hassalls spent over four weeks centralising all assets to a single location around the mine’s workshop area and cordoned off access to all other areas of the mine site to reduce risk to buyers and mine operators during the sale program.

Safety precautions

When facilitating any activity on a mine site involving the public, it’s important to go above and beyond mere compliance with safety guidelines and restrictions outlined by the vendor and legislation to ensure risks are minimised. Mines will almost always have large and potentially dangerous Heavy Earthmoving Machinery (HME) present, which serves to raise the priority of safety checks before buyers are walking around on-site.

Before the auction yard was set up for the Drayton dispersal, multiple Workplace Risk Assessments (WRAs), Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) reviews and checks were conducted, as well as the development of a full traffic management plan, which included taking the 20-necessary staff through rigorous training to minimise safety risks. This entailed working extensively with the mine operators over an eight week period to work through all possible scenarios and safety risks attributed with conducting an onsite event on the mine site with over 500 people attending. The culmination of this work led to an incident and injury free sale program, which saw the complete demobilisation of over 70 large earthmoving assets and 100+ truckloads of consumable assets.

Selling a mine is no small feat, but it can be a rational and effective way to maximise return on assets when key factors are considered. Identifying influential market, locale and safety indicators are just some of the variables to consider when conducting an on-site mine auction, all of which should be looked at by a specialist dispersal strategist.