Research Funding

ACARP seeks research proposals that address key industry problems on an annual basis. The announcement seeking research proposals will be made in The Australian newspaper on Saturday, 1 April 2017.

The project priorities for 2017 and a Newsletter detailing the same will be available after then. In the meantime the 2016 project priorities Newsletter is available.

ACARP will fund projects that lead to improvements in safety standards and performance, a reduction in the environmental impacts of mining and coal utilisation, a reduction in the mine operating cost and technical support to marketing of coal.

The categories to which the 2016 categories related and for which submissions were sought are:

Closing Date

The closing date for proposals for 2017 is Wednesday, 3rd May.

How to Apply for Funding

Examination of the ACARP 2017 calendar together with the Approval Structure will assist in understanding the ACARP approval system.

Guidelines for the preparation of short proposals are available on the last page of the Research Priorities Newsletter ACARPResearchPrioritiesNewsletter.

Each proposal must have the Proposal Summary Sheet attached. It is important to note that this is a new summary sheet and must be used in place of the one available in previous years..

Proposals should be emailed to ACARP after 1 April 2017 and no later than the COB on the closing date of 3 May 2017.

The 74 projects selected in 2016 provide an indication of the areas of research of interest to the coal industry. The report summarising these - ACARP People and Projects 2016 - will be available early February 2017.


These priorities have been developed by the five technical committees responsible for project development and selection. The categories to which these priorities relate are:

Proposals in the environment and community category will be considered by either the underground, open cut or coal preparation committees, as appropriate.

These priorities are not prescriptive but should act as a guide to the areas in which ACARP is seeking research proposals.

ACARP is a collaborative program that utilises the experience and technical strength of both the coal mining industry and research institutions in solving technical problems and addressing issues of significance to the industry’s long term future. Any proposed research project that is strongly supported by a mine site and is of interest to a number of coal operations is encouraged.

Safety and environment remain key drivers in the program and will continue to be the focus of much of the underground work and a significant component of the open cut and coal preparation programs.


Underground Priorities


  • Health and Safety Issues and Management Systems - Investigation of key practices, including legislative, leading practice alternatives and culture.
  • Management of Health - Mental health, alcohol and other drugs, return to work and fatigue e.g. by reduced exposure to vibration, noise and heat.
  • Prevent Harm from Spontaneous Combustion, Ignitions, Explosions, Outbursts, Coal Bursts, Ventilation and Strata Failures - Improved understanding, detection, prediction, protection, selection and design of major hazard management systems.
  • Communication to Employees and Contractors of Safety Measures - Improvement such that the information, training and instruction is provided in a readily understandable way.
  • Operator Interfaces and Collision Avoidance - Improving equipment, automation and remote monitoring and control, also addressing musculoskeletal disorders, improved ergonomics and improved roadway conditions.
  • Airborne and Noise Contaminants - Better understanding and controls for airborne dust, diesel emissions, and noise exposure by attenuation.
  • Emergency Response Measures - Adequacy and effectiveness.



  • Exploration Data - Innovative methods for the acquisition, capture and modelling of exploration.
  • Downhole Geophysical Surveys - Improved processes for the derivation of additional value from surveys.
  • Hydrocarbons in the Overburden and Floor Strata - Development of methods to understand nature and quantity of hydrocarbons to assist with risk management.
  • Geological Features - Better resolution in the interval between surface and target seams with emphasis on near surface.
  • Rehabilitation of Boreholes - Methods and materials, including the integrity of grouting.

Resource Evaluation

  • Key Aspects of Australia’s Coal Basins - Improve understanding of key aspects and how they impact on mining conditions.
  • Coal Deposits at Depths of 500-1,000m - Studies on the development of coal deposits with specific focus on ground conditions and applicable mining methods.
  • Validation and Integration of Multiple Exploration Data Sets - Practical and automated techniques.
  • Reconciliation and Updating of Exploration Data - Improved methods with real time operational data.
  • Estimation and Classification of Resources and Reserves - Practical methods for increasing confidence in resources and reserves.
  • Yield Estimates - Optimisation of the coal quality testing process to improve estimates.

Geotechnical and Hydrogeological Evaluation

  • Distressed, Degassed and Dewatered Zones - Detection and characterisation of hazards in the zones ahead of mining.
  • Interaction of Future Workings with Old Underground Workings – Identification of risks and controls.
  • Groundwater Systems - Improved assessment and evaluation of mining impacts.
  • Strata Failure Mechanisms - Improved methods for understanding mechanisms in open cut and underground mines.

Mining Environment

  • Anomalies and Discontinuities - Improved efficiency and effectiveness in detection ahead of mining.
  • Ground Control Systems - Development of techniques and procedures.
  • Gas and Hydrogeology - Improved assessment and evaluation including :-
    • Impacts of groundwater on stability and degradation of material properties.
    • Impacts of mining on surface and groundwater including aquifer interaction and interaction with the mining horizon.
    • Strata gas reservoir characteristics and potential interaction with the mining horizon.
    • Impacts of dewatering and degassing on stress and strength resulting from gas drainage and or production.
    • >


  • Roadway Development - Improvements in advance rates and environment conditions leading to an integrated system comprising cutting, strata support, continuous haulage, logistics, and panel advancement equipment and systems.
  • Mine Logistics - Improved management, new or more efficient design of men and material transport and handling systems.
  • Remote Control and Automation Processes - Application of processes to increase productivity and reduce operator exposure to hazards.
  • Reliability of Longwall Systems - Improved systems and further development of non-traditional longwall methods (e.g. top coal caving, thin seam mining).
  • Gas Drainage Practices - Improvement in the efficiency and effectiveness in gassy seams; better techniques to understand and measure various outburst threshold components.


  • Enhanced Safety, Output and Energy Efficiency – through improvements in design, operability and maintainability.
  • Increased Output through Improvements in Uptime of Mining and Services Processes - in particular, improvements to the design of conveyor systems are encouraged to improve system reliability, safety and maintenance.
  • Improved Process Management - through automation, monitoring and reporting of mining systems and sub processes.


Open Cut Priorities


The industry is looking for direct or indirect improvements in health and safety across all mining and exploration operations. Areas of interest for open cut mining are:

  • Investigation of key health and safety issues and management systems, practices and culture, including legislative leading practice alternatives.
  • Management of health including mental health, alcohol and other drugs, return to work and fatigue, e.g. by reduced exposure to noise, vibration, dust and heat.
  • Protection and removal of personnel from hazardous situations such as those around the ground stability in the vicinity of voids and excavations, particularly during truck loading.
  • General improvement to the health and safety of mining and maintenance operations through novel procedural, operating, manual handling aids, including automated technologies or equipment changes.
  • Improving equipment operator interfaces, vehicle interaction management, improved automation and remote control.
  • Development of safety in the design of systems and equipment that leads to the reduction of occupational exposure at the source, e.g. noise, dust, blast fumes etc.
  • Improve the comprehensive communication to employees and contractors of safety measures such that the information, training and instruction are provided in a readily understandable way.


A reduction in unit costs of existing mining systems is a key driver for the industry. Some specific focus areas are:

  • Innovative mine design (mitigating weather impacts, pre-mine gas drainage and operating open cuts above old undergrounds).
  • Improve the productivity of trucks (increase payload, steeper grades, uptime in wet conditions – tyres).
  • Improve the productivity of excavators (increase payload, innovations in operator techniques).
  • Develop common operator interfaces to support interoperation of technical systems on mobile equipment to avoid clutter in the operator cabin from too many displays (vehicle interaction management, fleet management, GPS, fatigue systems and vital signs, etc).
  • Develop systems that allow interoperation of technical systems on mobile equipment between different manufacturers (collision management, fleet management, GPS, fatigue systems and vital signs, etc) including control of critical machine functions (e.g. startup interlocks, emergency braking/shutdown).
  • Develop decision support systems for managing data by operators (in-cab interfaces), supervisors (production information) and engineers (HPGPS data into designs, strata recognition into load sheets, etc).
  • Establish new methods of fragmentation or improvements on existing methods (e.g. linking strata recognition with explosives optimisation and diggability).
  • Develop innovative coal recovery methods, improve dilution rejection in pit and advanced sensing technology to detect variation in coal seam quality (selective mining).

Safe implementation of new technology to reduce operating unit costs is also a key driver for the industry. Some specific options are:

  • Integration of SLAP (Shovel Load Assist Program) for hydraulic excavators/shovels.
  • Develop remote, semi-automated or automated mining systems (draglines, excavators, dozers and explosives trucks).
  • Investigate continuous cutting technology for overburden and coal removal e.g. no need for drill and blasting (high volume surface longwalls, surface miners, etc).
  • Establish selective mining techniques (thin seam mining, steep dip [20-90°] highwall/floor mining, remote access of deep seams from boreholes).
  • Strata recognition from production drill rigs.


The Committee welcomes proposals that improve equipment efficiency, reliability and services supported by or integrated with OEMs (with whom interaction with is considered significantly valuable):
  • The application of alternative materials to high maintenance areas.
  • Reliability engineering, including whole of asset approaches.
  • Effective condition monitoring, real time monitoring and its useful integration.
  • Integrate existing data acquisition systems.
  • Innovations that help mine operators improve tyre life.
  • Advances that help relate duty to work done across a range of equipment to define maintenance needs.
  • Improved methods for reducing catastrophic equipment failures.
  • Technologies that improve energy efficiency across the mine including fuel/electricity/gas for fixed and mobile equipment.
  • Robotic assistance for routine mobile maintenance.
  • Modularised systems for equipment maintenance.
  • Reduce labour intensive field maintenance activities (e.g. GET, rigging) through design.
  • Remote maintenance management; condition monitoring, diagnosis, repair etc.


Improved geological definition and geotechnical assessment of coal deposits represent key focus areas.


  • Innovative methods for the acquisition, capture and modelling of exploration data.
  • Improved processes for the derivation of additional value from downhole geophysical surveys, specifically in the areas of:
    • Identification and evaluation of discontinuities.
    • Improved rock mass characterisation.
    • Derivation of credible coal quality estimates from geophysical logs.
    • Establishment of best practice work processes.
  • Development of methods to understand nature and quantity of hydrocarbons in the overburden and floor strata to assist with risk management in coal exploration and mining.
  • Better resolution of geological features in interval between surface and target seam(s) with emphasis on near surface.
  • Innovative methods and appropriate materials for the rehabilitation of boreholes (exploration, groundwater and instrumented) and methods to establish the integrity of grout.
Resource Evaluation
  • Improve understanding of key aspects of Australia’s coal basins and how they impact on mining conditions (including structure, stratigraphy, groundwater, coal rank and quality trends).
  • Innovative practical automated techniques, improved methods for the validation and integration of multiple exploration data sets.
  • Real time improved methods for reconciliation and updating of exploration data with real time operational data.
  • Practical methods for increasing confidence in estimation and classification of resources and reserves.
  • Optimisation of the coal quality testing process with a view to improving yield estimates.
Geotechnical and Hydrogeological Evaluation
  • Detection and characterisation of hazards in the distressed, degassed and dewatered zones ahead of mining.
  • Minimisation of geotechnical risk with a particular focus on deeper excavations and higher spoils; including the improved understanding, modelling, monitoring and management of principal hazards.
  • Investigate material properties, implications on dump design, capping and stability of alternative methods of tailings disposal in spoil.
  • Identify risks associated with interaction of planned/advancing open cut and underground workings with old underground workings.
  • Improve methods for understanding strata failure mechanisms in open cut and underground mines.
  • Investigate novel applications of existing data sources.
  • Improve assessment and evaluation of hydrogeology on mining including
    • Impacts on slope stability and degradation of material properties.
    • Impact of mining on groundwater including aquifer interaction.


Coal Preparation Priorities

The coal industry faces a range of sustainable development challenges which, in coal preparation research, translate to:

  • Occupational health, safety and environmental improvements.
  • Energy and water efficiency and usage improvements.
  • • Optimal resource/reserve recovery within specification.

Proposals offering practical and commercially viable outcomes that can be implemented relatively quickly are especially encouraged. Consideration will also be given to projects addressing the traditional areas of coal preparation improvement, such as efficiency optimisation, moisture and cost reduction and market value improvement.


Projects are sought to deliver lower cost, higher efficiency, and higher throughput from existing operations. Specific needs include:

  • Optimising the process efficiency of individual unit operations.
  • Optimising maintenance practices and equipment designs to deliver improved process efficiency at lower costs.
  • Development of total cost of ownership and effective maintenance strategies for the development of infrastructure (e.g. to ensure structural integrity).
  • Developing leading practice operations and maintenance guides for existing unit operations.
  • Constructing tools to monitor and quantify the effect of sub-optimal operation.
  • Increasing the efficiency of fine particle size and density separations.
  • Development of new processes that facilitate new coal utilisation pathways.


It is imperative to improve health and safety outcomes and reduce the environmental impacts of the coal preparation plant process. This may include:

  • Developing new tailings disposal technologies to reduce cost and improve environmental outcomes.
  • Reducing noise and dust generation at the coal preparation plant and along rail corridors.
  • Improving the dewatering of fine product and reject streams.
  • Developing improved tailings reprocessing methodologies.


Research is required to generate step change technologies that materially change the plant and/or markets for coal utilisation of the near future. Levers may include:

  • Development of new processing technologies that are higher capacity, lower cost, or more efficient.
  • Deployment of existing technologies and approaches from other industries in a coal specific context.
  • Automation of mobile equipment in coal handling applications such as dozer push.
  • Development of high capacity dry processing techniques that are less sensitive to feed size.
  • Automation to boost productivity and reduce cost.
  • New and improved sensors to measure critical process parameters and track coal losses in real time.


Technical Market Support Priorities

Australian coal producers face increasing competition for market share from:

  • emerging supply regions;
  • coal users seeking to reduce cost through lower quality coals, substitutes and alternate technologies; and
  • increasing regulation impacting traded coal quality, transport and environmental emissions.

The Technical Market Support Committee seeks to address these pressures and deliver maximum market benefit for Australian coals through selection, funding and monitoring of priority research projects.

ACARP encourages the adoption of new analytical techniques and equipment that has been successfully used in other areas of science and technology.

Research proposals are required to address effective technology transfer from the project team to the industry, including through industry workshops and other mechanisms.

R&D project areas relate to coal properties which impact market value and to the market impact portion of the value chain which runs from sea port to customer.

Specific priorities for this funding round are:

  • Relative utilisation behaviour of Australian coals compared with those from competing supply regions.
  • Respond to regulatory impacts on trading, handling and transport of Australian coals.
  • Fundamental and applied understanding to relate properties of cokes to those of the coals from which they are made.
  • Effective and consistent characterisation techniques for coals and cokes to enable rational market valuation.


Environment and Community Priorities

In pursuit of sustainable development, the industry is calling for research to enable it to continually improve its ability to manage environment and community issues. Research is needed to fill knowledge gaps in, and identify, future issues such that stakeholders have confidence in the industry’s ability to manage and reduce its impacts

The industry is seeking proposals relating to the coal mining industry’s license to operate, water management and effective mine site closure and lease/property relinquishment. The industry is particularly keen to see research address the following aspects:

  • Improved management of the potential impacts of open cut and/or underground mining on surface waters, groundwater and the local and/or regional ecosystems supported by these resources.
  • Improved techniques to achieve efficient use of raw water, innovative reuse of mine impacted water, and effective management of treatment by-products including brine.
  • Improved methods for the prediction and management of dust, overpressure, vibration, fumes and noise impacts, in the context of both environment and community health impacts and suited to informing policy frameworks for the development of local and regional air quality criteria.
  • Improved understanding/management of land use conflicts across the mining life cycle including the early identification of issues/aspects necessary to promote win-win outcomes and encourage consensus from competing interests.
  • Improved understanding of leading practice stakeholder engagement for interaction with landholders, local communities, traditional owners and overlapping tenure holders.
  • Sustainable coal washery management with a focus on reduced environmental footprint and beneficial use of washery by-products.
  • Sustainability of mine rehabilitation including aspects such as landform design, subsidence, soil profile development, rehabilitation knowledge management, performance assessment, geomorphology, biodiversity development and potential for offsets replacement, reuse of beneficial by-products from other industries (biosolids, bio-char, flyash, bottom ash etc), reestablishment of agricultural land uses, landscape function and alternate post mining land uses.
  • Revegetation including species selection and improved methods for the introduction of recalcitrant and/or high interest native species in mine rehabilitation.
  • Management of problematic overburden materials including dispersive, saline, sodic, acid and spontaneous combustible materials.
  • Investigation into aspects of effective mine closure including:
    • Tenure and property relinquishment and the improvement of policy framework and options for relinquishment.
    • Sustainable land use and the integration of post-mining land use with neighbouring/regional land use.
    • Final voids and the stability of highwall/low walls in perpetuity.
    • Equilibrium of groundwater levels and/or quality.
    • Long term impacts that may be associated with post-mining surface water and groundwater.
    • Policy approaches/mechanisms for the management of residual risk.


Mine Site Greenhouse Mitigation Priorities

Fugitive gases are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from coal mining operations and as such are a primary focus of ACARP priorities. The industry seeks innovative means for mitigation and accurate measurement of fugitive mine site gas emissions.

  • Demonstration and large scale test work is beyond the financial capability of ACARP.
  • The Committee will only consider proposals addressing greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the production of coal, not due to the utilisation of coal.


Dilute sources of seam gas such as mine ventilation air are a significant challenge. Proposals aimed at combusting or utilising dilute gas (0.5% of less methane), or increasing the methane concentration to usable levels, in a safe and cost effective manner without the need for a supplementary fuel are encouraged.


The Mine Site Greenhouse Mitigation Committee is interested in projects addressing open cut or underground operations with the potential to:
  • Reduce gas drainage costs.
  • Maximise pre and post mining gas recovery.
  • Improve the quality and consistency of mine gas production.

Commercial power generation technologies for high purity methane such as drainage gas are being increasingly adopted and are not seen as a high priority for further ACARP research.


The Committee is interested in proposals for the improvement and measurement of fugitive emissions from operating and decommissioned mines.


Approval Structure

An understanding of the ACARP approval structure will assist in preparation and submission of Research Proposals.


2017 Calendar


Priority Setting & Strategy Meetings

April 1

Call for Proposals (Announcement in Paper and distribution of Newsletter)

May 3

Closing Date for Short Proposals


Short Proposal Selection Meetings
July 28th - Call for Long Proposals

August 25

Postgraduate Scholarship applications due

August 30

Closing Date for Long Proposals


Long Proposal Selection Meetings

December (mid)

Researchers advised of Proposal Outcomes
* This timetable is subject to change.


Postgraduate Scholarships

Two full time postgraduate scholarships are available each year.

Who can apply?

An employee of the Australian coal industry or an industry directly associated with it, who satisfies university requirement for postgraduate degrees. The candidate will have been employed in the industry for a minimum of 3 years after graduating.

How Much?

The scholarship will provide $100,000 per annum tax free to the candidate. Additional support will be available to the hosting university.

Type of Postgraduate study

Full time PhD. Research, not course work.

Scholarship selection

The scholarship selection and management will be coordinated by the ACARP Research Committee. This committee is made up of senior technical managers from the Australian black coal industry.

Who defines the research project?

It is the responsibility of the candidate to find a suitable project, supervisor and hosting university.

What are the suitable projects?

With ACARP currently spending over $16 million per year on 170 research projects, candidates should gain an understanding of the areas in which ACARP has undertaken research by looking at the People and Projects Report

The Research Priorities Newsletter defines the areas requiring further research.

Participating Universities

A number of Australian universities have registered their participation in the program.

When to apply

The cut off date for submissions in 2017 will be Friday, 25th August for review by the ACARP Research Committee.
Final decisions will be made by the ACARP Board in December each year.

How to Apply

Download the Guidelines for ACARP Scholarship, and then Contact ACARP at 07 3225 3600 or email Anne Mabardi to receive further information.



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