ACARP seeks research proposals that address key industry problems on an annual basis. The announcement seeking research proposals in the next round will be made in The Australian newspaper on Saturday, 26 March 2022.

Short proposals of no more than 6 pages are requested in the first instance.

The project priorities for 2022 follow and a Newsletter detailing the priorities and the guidelines for preparing short proposals is available to download.

Closing Date

The closing date for proposals for 2022 is Wednesday, 27 April. Late submissions will not be accepted.

ACARP will acknowledge receipt of proposals as received. It is the researcher’s responsibility to seek this confirmation if not received within a week of the closing date.

If short proposals receive a favourable industry review; long proposals will be requested as per the following timetable:

  • 22 July - Applicants notified by email of success in moving to second stage, long proposal is requested.
  • 24 August - Deadline for submission of long proposals.
  • Mid Dec - Applicants notified of funding outcome.

How to Apply for Funding

Examination of the ACARP 2022 calendar together with the Approval Structure will assist in understanding the ACARP approval system.

The projects selected in 2021 provide an indication of the areas of research of interest to the coal industry. The report summarising these is available to download: 2021 ACARP Report .

Guidelines for the preparation of short proposals are available on the last pages of the Research Priorities Newsletter. Each proposal must have the current Proposal Summary Sheet attached.

Proposals should be emailed to ACARP ( after 26 March 2022 and no later than the close of business on Wednesday, 27 April 2022. Receipt of proposals is acknowledged by return email; it the researcher’s responsibility to seek this confirmation within a week of the closing date if not received.


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.

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

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


Underground Priorities

The Underground Committee is seeking research proposals to materially improve the health, safety and sustainability of underground mining operations. In particular, the industry is seeking proposals dedicated to addressing the following:

  • Extending automation and remote operation technologies for roadway development, with the aim of reaching a point where there is no need for anyone to be working at the mining face.
  • Supporting/outbye activities – roadway and associated logistics.
  • Providing improved understanding of geological conditions to be encountered prior to mining.
  • Expedite coal production when establishing new mining areas – reduce the upfront capital cost and duration to producing longwall coal.
  • Prevent harm from spontaneous combustion, ignitions, mine fires, extreme heat, explosions, outbursts, coal bursts, respirable dust, silica dust, ventilation and strata failures: Improved understanding, detection, prediction, protection, selection and design of major hazard management systems.
  • Operator interfaces and vehicle interaction: Improving automation, remote monitoring and control, also addressing musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Airborne and noise contaminants: Review of sampling practices, measure and control effectiveness and understand risks associated with contaminants.
  • Emergency response measures: Adequacy and effectiveness.
  • Improved psychosocial and mental health outcomes.


  • Downhole geophysical surveys: Improved processes for the derivation of additional value from surveys.
  • Geological features: Better resolution in the interval between surface and target seams with emphasis on near surface.
Resource Evaluation
  • Studies on the development of coal deposits with specific focus on detection and management of hazardous ground conditions and applicable mining methods.
Strata Control and Hydrology
  • Scanning detection methods for underground roadway monitoring, rock mass classification, ground movement and hazard detection.
  • Prediction of strata anomalies and discontinuities (equipment automation, monitoring data acquisition).
  • Gas and hydrogeology – Improved assessment and evaluation including:
    • Impacts of groundwater on stability and degradation of material and support system properties.
    • Impacts of mining on surface and groundwater including aquifer interaction and interaction with the mining horizon.
    • Impacts of dewatering and degassing on stress and strength resulting from gas drainage and/or production.
  • Improved strata support installation safety; equipment and practices.
  • Long term pillar stability (definition, subsidence and strata behaviour).
  • Implications of increase in stress and load on strata, including pillar stability and behaviour.
  • Roadway development: Improvements in advance rates and environment conditions leading to an integrated system comprising cutting, strata support, continuous haulage, logistics, and panel advancement.
  • Mine logistics: Improved management, more efficient design of men and material transport and handling systems.
  • Remote control and automation: Application of advanced mining processes to increase productivity and reduce operator exposure to hazards. Extraction of useful information from big data.
  • Reliability of longwall systems: Improved systems and further development of non-traditional longwall methods (e.g. top coal caving, thin seam mining).
  • Enhanced safety, output and energy efficiency: Particularly targeting alternate power storage and delivery e.g. electric, through improvements in design, operability and maintainability.
  • Materials and manufacturing techniques: Reduction in weight, improvement in corrosion protection, fatigue and wear life.
  • Advancing the introduction of modern technology: In particular for electrical equipment in hazardous areas.
  • Alternates to diesel powered transport and haulage vehicles.
  • Improved assessment and evaluation of seam gas reservoir characteristics and potential interaction with the mining horizon.
  • Improved understanding and measurement of outburst risk prediction parameters.
  • Innovative gas drainage practices: Improvement efficiency and effectiveness.
  • Spontaneous combustion: Improving the early detection, management and control strategies for spontaneous combustion.
  • Identification of elevated coal burst risk domains.
  • Establishing risk mitigation measures for development and longwall mining in areas which may have a coal burst hazard.

Open Cut Priorities

Final voids remain a strong focal point for the Open Cut Committee with a key research priority to create residual voids with beneficial use. Research is particularly sought in the areas of:

  • Identifying and proving what outcomes for final voids are possible and permissible in Australia, for both wet and dry voids.
  • How to create viable aquatic ecosystems from mine voids, identifying what range of ecosystems are possible across the range of water conditions faced in coal final voids.
  • Low cost desalination.
  • Beneficial uses for desalination brine.

The following key areas of research remain critical for long term viability of the industry:

  • Develop viable options to the consequences of ongoing liability, post mining back‐filling and increased rehabilitation costs for final land form and beneficial usage by being able to demonstrate viable and science proven activities for rehabilitation land and the alternative use of final voids.
  • Lower the cost of mining by increased use of technology to assist with mining operations, such as by introducing more efficient overburden removal by continuous cutting.
  • Enhance the control effectiveness of what we have to keep people safe through technology enhancing existing controls or replacing them. Examples such as being able to better predict wall and dam stability, and increased enhancement or automation of processes that eliminate or mitigate harm to personnel.
  • Sustain licence to develop and extend, especially in regards to resource development, permits (creek diversions, clearing, habitat), reserves, water, voids and offsets.

Proposals are sought but not limited to the following areas:

  • Enhance the application of automation within the industry to drive increased profitability.
  • Continuous mining technology e.g. cutting technology for overburden and coal removal without the need for drill and blast.
  • Cost effective designs and methods to close and rehabilitate mines dealing with dumps, drainage systems and tailings facilities.
  • Improve the productivity of trucks and excavators, draglines and dozer push operation.
  • Improve equipment efficiency, reliability and materially extending component life.
  • Optimisation of capital assets through productivity.
  • Improved methods for predicting and reducing catastrophic equipment failures.
  • Methods for extending asset life to reduce capital requirements.
  • The application of alternative materials to high maintenance areas.
  • Innovations that help mine operators improve tyre life.
  • Automation of maintenance tasks and diagnostics.
  • Enabling actionable decision making through data capture, analysis and machine learning.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Investigate novel applications of existing data sources (geological, geotechnical, production etc).
  • Investigate the requirements for dump designs when seeking to maximise the ratio of tailings to spoil, by assessing what is needed to maintain dump stability and operating conditions.
  • Improve hydrogeological assessment and evaluation of mining including impacts on slope stability and degradation of material properties, particularly in relation to measuring pore pressure in lowwall dumps (without the need to drill).
  • Promote the development of affordable, accurate, critical real-time monitoring of pit slopes.
  • Improve methods for automating the structural and geotechnical mapping of slopes, including innovative ways of incorporating mapped data into geological models.
  • Improve methods for automated intelligent interpretation of downhole geophysical data.
  • Innovative methods for the acquisition, capture and modelling of exploration data to enable integration into autonomous mining systems and autonomous geological modelling capability.
  • Improve processes for the derivation of additional value from downhole geophysical surveys, specifically in the areas of:
    • Identification and evaluation of discontinuities.
    • Improve rock mass characterisation.
    • Derivation of credible coal quality estimates from non-destructive processes i.e. geophysical logs, CT etc.
    • Establishment and development of leading practice work processes.
  • Better resolution of geological features in the interval between surface and target seams with emphasis on near surface.
  • 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).
  • Investigate ways to enable faster and cheaper exploration (particularly seismic), aiming towards real-time automation, interpretation and communication of results.
  • Innovative practical automated techniques to enable improved methods for the validation and integration of multiple exploration data sets allowing the data to be integrated with other data sets ready for mining autonomy (e.g. live dig/mine plans, integrated stability monitoring platforms).
  • 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.
  • Improving the ability to understand dump stability by investigating methods for automating classification of spoils in real-time to create as-dumped strength models for integration with autonomy and automated slope stability modelling.
  • Optimisation of the coal quality testing process with a view to improving yield estimates.
  • Optimising rehabilitation planning and management of problematic overburden such as dispersive, saline and sodic materials.
  • Management of acid bearing and spontaneous combustible materials.
  • Improve techniques to achieve efficient use of raw water, innovative reuse of mine impacted water, and effective management of treatment by-products including brine.
  • Sustainable coal washery by-product management with a focus on beneficial use.
  • Investigate key health and safety issues and management systems, practices and culture, including legislative leading practice alternatives.
  • Develop evidence based causal relationships for personnel health impacts from all coal and associated waste mining activities to help guide appropriate regulation.
  • Develop common operator interfaces to support interoperation of technical systems on mobile equipment to avoid clutter in the operator cabin (vehicle interaction management, fleet management, GPS, fatigue systems and vital signs, etc).
  • Manage health including mental health, alcohol and other drugs, return to work and fatigue, e.g. by reduced exposure to noise, vibration, dust and heat, by determining mental health of employees, etc.
  • Improving equipment operator interfaces, vehicle interaction management, and remote control.
  • General improvement to the health and safety of mining and maintenance operations through novel manual handling aids, including automated technologies or equipment changes.
  • Develop a cognitive recognition method which addresses the normalising effects that are created due to the human brain predominantly operating in a subconscious mode and failing to recognise environment changes that could lead to adverse outcomes.
  • Improve the communication to employees and contractors of safety measures such that the information, training and instruction are provided in a method that allows cognitive retention.
  • Protection and removal of personnel from hazardous situations such as those around unstable ground, in the vicinity of voids, and around excavations particularly during truck loading.
  • Investigate new applications to be able to quickly detect and characterise minor discontinuities and hazards in the distressed, degassed and dewatered zones ahead of mining.
  • New rock mass classification methods that link measurable intact rock and discontinuity properties to quantified rock mass constitutive properties while accounting for the inherent anisotropy and heterogeneity of coal measures.
  • New methods to automate the incorporation of derived strengths into stability models are required to be able to replace the use of generic rock mass properties.
  • Methods for open cut slope geotechnical mapping and deformation monitoring.
  • Minimisation of geotechnical risk and uncertainty with a particular focus on deeper excavations and higher spoils; including the improved understanding, modelling, monitoring and management of principal hazards.
  • Improved methods for understanding strata failure mechanisms in open cut slope stability, including the role of tension, particularly in regards to effective and user friendly estimation of runout distances prior to failure.
  • Development of real-time calculation of stability during mining excavation within excavator equipment cabs, dispatch and calculation within mine planning software (though integration of data sets, stability modelling and interpretation).
  • Identify risks and ground response required associated with interaction of planned/advancing open cut mines with current and previous underground workings.
  • Improve methods for understanding strata failure mechanisms in open cut slope stability.
  • Development of the ability to monitor slope deformation in real-time over an entire site (many km2) including highwall and lowwall slopes and critical infrastructure (thereby ideally indicating the underlying mechanism behind instability, feeding back into real-time stability calculations).
  • Improve the understanding of hydrogeological impacts to slope stability, particularly the degradation of material properties in pits that have been used as water storages for many years.
  • Improve management of the potential impacts of mining on surface waters, groundwater and the local and/or regional ecosystems supported by these resources.
  • Revegetation including species selection and improved methods for the introduction of recalcitrant and/or high interest native species in mine rehabilitation.
  • Improve 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.
  • Innovative ways of assessing and determining biodiversity offset value.
  • Improve 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.
  • Technologies that improve energy efficiency across the mining operations including fuel, electricity, gas, battery capture.
  • Reduce environmental pollutants used in the operation and maintenance of assets.
  • Improve hydrogeological assessment and evaluation of the groundwater impacts of mining, including aquifer interaction.

Coal Preparation Priorities

The industry faces a range of existing and emerging challenges. These challenges translate to opportunities in coal preparation research, the broad areas of focus being:

  • Health, safety, environment and community.
  • Energy and water efficiency.
  • Asset utilisation, maintainability and reliability.
  • Optimal resource/reserve recovery.
  • Optimal tailings management and closure practices.

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.


Proposals are sought to deliver safer, lower cost, higher efficiency, or higher throughput from existing operations. This includes step change technologies that could materially change the plant and/or markets for future coal utilisation, or utilisation of waste streams:

  • Enhancing performance of existing technologies.
  • Enhancing mechanical and electrical systems to support energy reduction (e.g. pumping and conveying)
  • Optimising current equipment designs to deliver improved process efficiency.
  • Optimising maintenance practices, asset utilisation, reliability and unit cost.
  • Improved OEM equipment designs that support maintenance practices to reduce risk to maintenance personnel and prevent downtime.
  • Improved prediction of total cost of ownership, including better definition of the drivers behind different maintenance strategies for the development of new, and management of existing, infrastructure (e.g. to ensure structural integrity).
  • Developing leading practice operations and maintenance handbooks.
  • Constructing tools to monitor and quantify the effect of sub-optimal operation.
  • Increasing the efficiency of fine particle size and density separations.
  • Encourage industry uptake and commercialisation of high definition analysis techniques as alternatives to heavy liquids.
  • Development of methods to reduce undesirable components within the product coal.
  • Improved start-up/shutdown sequences to minimise downtime.
  • Development of tools to prevent the passing of contamination to customers.
  • Effective reconciliation techniques – full pit to plant to port including qualities and quantities.
  • Develop readily available alternatives to magnetite and review the different grades and qualities used.
  • Automation to improve safety, boost productivity and reduce cost.
  • Development of data analytical tools including AI, machine learning, digital twins etc.
  • Automation of dozers on stockpiles.
  • Development of high capacity dry processing techniques that are less sensitive to feed size and look at processing techniques closer to pits i.e. transport only product from pit.
  • Enhanced liberation and processing techniques targeting fine grained coal measures.
  • New and improved sensors to measure critical process parameters and track coal losses in real-time.
  • Improving the mechanical dewatering and handling of fine product and reject streams.


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

  • Developing tailings disposal processes to reduce cost, improve environmental outcomes and support effective closure outcomes.
  • Developing secondary dewatering techniques at the point of deposition.
  • Reducing noise and dust generation at each process of the coal chain from the point of extraction through to the port.
  • Maximising water recovery and recycle.
  • Developing improved tailings reprocessing methodologies.
  • Processing coal without the production of wet tailings.
  • Monitoring for and treatment (at or before time of processing) of acid forming or other deleterious chemical properties of reject/tailings.
  • Utilisation, recycling or repurposing of waste streams from the beneficiation process.

Technical Market Support Priorities

Technical Market Support research priorities have been set recognising:

  • The importance of ensuring the long term viability of Australian metallurgical and thermal coals in a carbon constrained world.
  • Increasing regulation impacting traded coal quality, transport and utilisation.
  • Need for talented coal researchers to meet developing need for low emissions power generation and steelmaking to support the transition to a low carbon future.

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

Specific priorities are:

  • Delivery of a pilot scale testing facility to understand coal quality impacts on HELE power plants.
  • Research using the pilot scale HELE testing facility and other techniques focused on fouling and on reducing fine particulate emissions associated with co-firing of biomass.
  • Development of metallurgical coke and PCI to support low carbon blast furnace ironmaking through the use of biomass and hydrogen.
  • Integrated understanding of coal to coke conversion and coke performance linked back to properties of coal which supports technical marketing of Australian coking coals.
  • Response to changes in regulation relating to trading, handling, transport and utilisation of Australian coals.
  • Laboratory scale demonstration of potential new large scale products from coal.

Environment and Community Priorities

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 and identify future issues such that stakeholders have confidence in the industry’s ability to manage and reduce its impacts.

Proposals are being sought relating to the coal mining industry’s license to operate, water management and effective mine site closure and lease/property relinquishment.

Proposals are particularly sought, but not limited to, the following areas:

  • Improved management of the potential impacts of 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.
  • Sustainable coal washery by-product management with a focus on beneficial use.
  • Sustainability of mine rehabilitation including aspects such as landform design and evolution, subsidence, performance assessment, biodiversity enhancement, re-establishment 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.
  • Optimising rehabilitation planning and management of problematic overburden such as dispersive, saline and sodic materials.
  • Management of acid bearing and spontaneous combustible materials.
  • Innovative ways of assessing and determining biodiversity offset value.
  • Investigation into aspects of effective mine closure including:
    • Tenure and property relinquishment and the improvement of policy frameworks 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.
    • Long term impacts that may be associated with post mining surface water and groundwater.
    • The management of residual risk.

Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Priorities

Before submitting a proposal in this area, it should be noted that:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Fugitive gases are the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions from coal mining operations and as such are a primary focus of the Mine Site Greenhouse Gas Mitigation Committee. The industry seeks innovative means for safe mitigation and accurate measurement of fugitive mine site gas emissions.


Dilute sources of seam gas such as mine ventilation air are a significant challenge. Proposals aimed at combusting or utilising dilute gas (0.5% or 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 Committee is interested in proposals with potential to reduce gas drainage costs, maximise gas recovery and improve the quality and consistency of mine gas production. In particular, the Committee would welcome projects examining the integration of gas drainage with open cut mining operations, including the implications for mine design, economics and environmental approvals.


Approval Structure

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


2022 Calendar

March 26

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

April 27

Closing Date for Short Proposals

July 22

Advice re outcomes of short proposals, and call for Long Proposals

August 24

Closing Date for Long Proposals

September 2

Postgraduate Scholarship applications due

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 may 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 $18 million per year on 240+ research projects, candidates should gain an understanding of the areas in which ACARP has undertaken research by looking at the Yearly Report and the Research Priorities Newsletter which 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 2022 will be Friday, 2nd September.
Final decisions will be made by the ACARP Board in December.

How to Apply

Download the Guidelines for ACARP Scholarship and the cover sheet
Contact ACARP at 07 3225 3600 or email Anne Mabardi if you need further information.



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