Bakers Creek cane farmer and Racecourse Mill supplier Ross Williams is one of hundreds of Mackay Sugar and Wilmar growers preparing for the start of the 2020 crush. The crushing kicks off today at Farleigh Mill. Picture: Tony Martin
Bakers Creek cane farmer and Racecourse Mill supplier Ross Williams is one of hundreds of Mackay Sugar and Wilmar growers preparing for the start of the 2020 crush. The crushing kicks off today at Farleigh Mill. Picture: Tony Martin

Mackay mill fires up to start crushing

CRUSHING gets under way today at Farleigh Mill, the first of Mackay Sugar’s three factories to fire up for the 2020 harvest.

Racecourse Mill will follow on Monday and Marian is due to start on June 11 and 12, with one milling train each day depending on cane supply.

Racecourse was originally slated for a June 3 start but soaking rain across the region forced the change of date, Mackay Sugar cane supply manager Jason Walton said.

“As a result, we have moved Racecourse and Marian back and will see how the supply progresses.”

Mr Walton said he expected the 2020 crushing season to produce a crop of 4.976 million tonnes and to last for about 24 weeks.

This compared with 4.92 million tonnes crushed during the 2019 season.

He said MSL personnel and the mills were ready for the crush.

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“We have finalised our maintenance and investment program as planned,” Mr Walton said.

“Before start of crush we are commissioning and testing all production lines.

“At Marian Mill the upgrade of the cane reception was a major investment and will be continued in the coming years.

“Another focus area was the boiler refurbishment at all three sites.

“With a number of replacements, as examples air compressors, cooling towers, conveyor systems and electrical switchboards, we expect a significant improvement of our milling operations.”

Wilmar Sugar's Norman van Blerk and Michael Killin prepare for the sugar crush
Wilmar Sugar's Norman van Blerk and Michael Killin prepare for the sugar crush

Wilmar Sugar general manager operations Mike McLeod said the company was on track to start the 2020 season at Plane Creek Mill on June 23 and Proserpine Mill on June 30.

“We don’t expect recent rainfall to impact our planned start dates, which are three and four weeks away,” Mr McLeod said.

“We expect to crush about 1.25 million tonnes of cane at our Plane Creek Mill this year, which is similar to last year’s total throughput.

“Our pre-season crop estimate for Proserpine is 1.62 million tonnes of cane – up on last year’s total of 1.54 million tonnes,” he said.

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Mr McLeod also said Wilmar was spending millions of dollars to further improve the reliability, performance and safety of its eight factories.

“In the Mackay region, we’re investing more than $32 million on capital and maintenance projects at our Plane Creek and Proserpine mills,” he said.

“At Plane Creek Mill, we’ve installed a new liquor tank and new hot water tank at a total cost of $1.6 million.

“We’ve also spent $1 million to strip and rebuild five turbines and $800,000 to upgrade the electrical control room.

“The 40-tonne Allan Page locomotive, which services Plane Creek Mill, has had a complete rebuild ahead of the season start.

“The $1.5 million upgrade included a new engine, drive train, gearbox, cabin and electronics.

“Maintenance season projects for Proserpine Mill include the $1 million strip and rebuild of five turbines and upgrades to the electrical and mechanical components of the bagasse bin slew drive,” Mr McLeod said.


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