ATC Williams opens Hunter Valley Office

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ATC Williams has proudly provided engineering services in the Hunter Valley since the early 1980s. Long term clients include Glencore, Yancoal (comprising the former Rio Tinto Coal Operations), Peabody and BHP at sites such as Mangoola, Bulga, Mount Owen, Ravensworth, West Wallsend, Hunter Valley Operations, Mt Thorley/Warkworth, Moolarben, Wambo, Duralie and Mount Arthur.

We are very pleased to announce the opening of a permanent office in Singleton, a town of 16,000 people, located central to the valley on the banks of the Hunter River. Two hours from Sydney and one hour from Newcastle, we are on the doorstep of our NSW coal clients and close to our metalliferrous clients in central NSW. Our permanent presence strongly supports our commitment to the NSW minerals sector and long-term relationships in the region.

Introducing John Milsom

John Milsom is the Manager of our Hunter Valley office, having moved into the new John Street premises in February. John joins ATC Williams with more than 25 years’ experience as a technical and business leader of mining and minerals processing operations across NSW, Queensland and the Northern Territory. As Principal Environmental Engineer, John’s specialty areas include mineralised waste and mine site water management as well as mine closure. John is a member of Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy and a Chartered Professional Engineer in Environment & Community.

John, what brings you to the Hunter Valley?
My ancestors first arrived in the Hunter Valley in 1912. I grew up on the north coast of NSW but lived here between 2010 and 2015. After a stint in the Northern Territory, it’s good to back again. The new role with ATC Williams was a natural fit and it’s great to be back in Waratah’s country. It’s an idyllic place to raise kids, and my wife and I feel very at home here. The excellent wineries are a bonus, of course.

Where do you head on weekends?
We are keen gardeners, skiers and cyclists. There are many decent mountain bike tracks in the area with our favourite being the trail through Hermitage. The camping opportunities from here are great too.

How long have you known ATC Williams?
I first worked with Allan and Ralph (ATC Williams Brisbane office), back in 2000 while I was a client at Yabulu Refinery. A few years later I was dealing with Mark, Craig and the ATC Williams Melbourne team at another Queensland operation. As I’ve moved from project to project (five at last count), I tended to take ATC with me as I respect the work they do and enjoy the way that they do it.
The opportunity to open the Hunter Valley office was the stars aligning. ATC Williams was looking to expand their presence in NSW as well as their capabilities in mine closure and mineralised waste management. After 25 years in operations, I was keen to try something different, and the chance to get back to the Hunter Valley made it an easy decision.

Describe one significant career moment
My first job after graduating was to design and then execute the full closure of a small gold mine in North Queensland called Red Dome. In less than four years we went from full noise with 250 people to complete lights out. We dismantled the processing plant, detoxified a heap leach pad, auctioned off surplus equipment, capped the tailings dam, and reorganised the water management system. This was the mid-1990s, and engineering practice in the closure space was nowhere near as advanced as it is today.
The project instilled in me a sense that asset closure is more predictable if sound engineering and disciplined operation apply throughout the life cycle of a facility.

Why do you prefer to say, ‘facility closure’ over ‘mine closure’?
Mine closure tends to be a wholistic term that includes all of the aspects of a mine-related business including people, equipment, obligations and ore-bodies. Stakeholders and regulators seek mine closure plans that predict things happening 20 or 100 years into the future. This can drive a behaviour where no real work commences until a fully scoped and funded plan is at foot. In a world with changing commodity prices, variable interest rates and improved technology, you will wait a long time and give up a lot of opportunities before your complete closure plan is realised.
‘Facility closure’ focuses on something tangible. When a TSF or a waste rock landform has reached the end of its useful life, the broader business will continue by developing the next one. The first facility, however, is still available for decommissioning, and actively closing it reduces the risk for the operating business. At the same time, we gather additional data and knowledge with which to do a better job at the next facility. In the metalliferous sector, unclosed mineralised waste facilities can cost you money and heartache. Timely facility closure is a great way to reduce holding costs.
I am a firm believer in good ground being good ground. I’ve worked on four mine closure projects, with two involving complete decommissioning and rehabilitation of the site. Less than twenty years later, mining operations have recommenced at both and new processing plants established. For the other two, after entering an active closure period, both have evolved into new but different mineral related businesses.

What are you most excited about with opening the Singleton office?
The most exciting part about the Hunter Valley office is the opportunity that it affords. We are on the doorstep of one of the world’s great thermal coal fields and the NSW base metals sector is undergoing a resurgence. Landfill engineering is another area that will continue to see growth in this part of the world. There are TSF’s that need capping and waste rock dumps that need closing, but just as importantly, there are many yet to be designed, permitted, developed and operated.
I’m looking forward to ATC Williams leading the way.