UTS Library

Xstrata Coal Rolleston mine opening



PR Company: 


Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2006 C11 - 6



Executive Summary: 

In April 2006, Swiss mining giant Xstrata officially opened its $530 million coal mine at Rolleston, Queensland. The event was particularly significant as the first Greenfield development within Xstrata’s portfolio spanning four continents and nine countries. Before Rolleston, all mines had been acquired as going concerns.

The importance placed on Rolleston Coal Mine was significant. Among those attending the event were Swiss-based Xstrata plc CEO Mick Davis and his Australian management team, Queensland Premier the Hon Peter Beattie, the Japanese Ambassador to Australia and CEO-level executives from joint venture partners based in Australia and overseas.

Xstrata appointed Rowland as project managers for the event. The key challenge was staging in a remote central Queensland location a high quality event of the calibre expected of global business and political leaders. The focus was to plan an event which would leave a lasting, positive impression to build on Xstrata’s corporate reputation in Australia.

More than 100 guests attended the event including 12 media. All were flown from Brisbane and participated in a mine tour and a three-course lunch in an air-conditioned marquee. The event was an outstanding success, generating extensive national and regional media coverage, positioning Xstrata as a successful mine developer.

Situation Analysis: 

The Rolleston opening provided an opportunity to position the mine:

• Locally, as an economic driver for the region through both increased employment and community funding agreements with Council

• In Queensland, as one of the coal sector’s highest yielding assets and a catalyst for improved supply chain infrastructure, particularly rail

• Nationally, to demonstrate Xstrata Coal’s commitment to the Australian coal  industry

• Internationally, to showcase Xstrata’s best practice mine design and development expertise (a $540 million project completed on time and on budget).

However, it also had challenges:

Remote location – Rolleston is 140km from Emerald. All transport, staging equipment and catering needed to be brought in from other centres

Time – Rowland was appointed six weeks before the event

Business climate – headlines focused on skills shortages, poor supply chain infrastructure and other coal mines being opened in Queensland and NSW

Transport – charter flights and coaches between Sydney, Brisbane and Emerald for 100 guests

Xstrata’s Queensland reputation – where it was best known for its hostile takeover of Australian-owned MIM Holdings in 2003.


Tool Purpose
Site visit • Understand limitations and possibilities of venue
Previous coverage • Identify potential issues in media program
• Gauge style of Xstrata Chief Executive
• Provide the basis for Q&As and key messages
Xstrata literature • Backgrounding – underpinned Xstrata’s mine opening positioning
Supplier research • Understand the capabilities of local versus Brisbane-based
• Understand transport options from Emerald
• Investigate communication devices given mobile networks
do not cover the region
• Understand bump in/bump out lead times
• Understand mine employee capabilities with the view of
reducing supplier costs

Target Policies: 

Target Publics


Importance of relationship
Xstrata CEO Official spokesperson
Shareholders Future investment hinges on market confidence
Guests Captive audience at the event. Critical in ‘spreading the word’ about Xstrata Coal
Federal, State and Local Government Critical for positioning as an industry leader
Opportunity to demonstrate Xstrata Coal’s major investment in industry and infrastructure
JV partners Acknowledgement of business and infrastructure
Media Coverage is influential in shaping the opinion of Xstrata’s reputation in the general business and mining communities
Staff Guests at their own opening party
Sense of involvement in the launch through co-operation on logistics
Local community Sense of engagement. Shows Xstrata is genuinely interested in being a part of the Springsure community
Suppliers Effective coordination. Critical for supply of material on time and to budget

Communication Strategy: 

Objective 1

Smooth-running high quality event on site at Rolleston

Strategic approach

Project team approach to engage
with suppliers and staff, managing
roles and responsibilities
• Reduces margin for error
• Ensures all are aware of their roles
• Identifies gaps in capability
• Ensures everyone sees their role as part of a ‘big picture’
Centralised responsibility for
transportation logistics
• Transportation was critical to the event’s running order and a catalyst for all contingency planning for weather, timing, delays, or accidents
Develop integrated event program
• Gives guests a unique experience of a mine site
• Allows the full depth of the Rolleston story to be told and demonstrated
• High quality event reflects the investment made and the significance of the development at Rolleston
• Balance the opportunities for action around the mine with sufficient time for networking amongst guests

Objective 2

Xstrata positioning

Strategic approach

Build the story around Xstrata’s strategic direction
• The foundation of all communication material
• Gives confidence to stakeholders (market and industry)
• Supports Xstrata’s corporate story in Australia
Replicate the positioning story
through all channels
• Ensures consistency across all groups
• Satisfies information needs of stakeholders

Objective 3

Media management

Strategic approach

Create valuable access/picture
opportunities for media
• Builds a sense of exclusivity and privilege
• Strong picture opportunities increase media impact
Build a solid news story
• Separates Xstrata from other mines in the region
• Encourages stronger media coverage
Secure attendance at the event
among critical regional and major
metropolitan media
• Long-term relationships with regional media are
important for future coverage of the mine
• Opportunity to build relationships and understanding
between Xstrata executive and Australian media


Supplier engagement

A team approach was taken to coordinate all suppliers and Xstrata personnel in three locations involved in the logistics.

Rowland project management involved:

• Establishing reporting mechanisms within Xstrata Coal

• Mine visits to establish event layout, identify staff capabilities, infrastructure gaps, pictorial opportunities, security risks and travel/transportation risks

• Preparing and maintaining the master action list and running schedule to track all action required and completed (See Appendix A, Item 1 for Action List)

• Chairing regular weekly work-in-progress teleconferences involving the full team

• Identifying chaperones for VIP’s, tours, media and other transport

• Coordinating information flow between the Premier’s office, Queensland Rail and Xstrata VIPs

• Preparing site/transport maps

• Coordinating all protocols, security and safety equipment

• Overseeing all aspects of the bump in, event day, and bump out over a 5 day schedule.


• Oversaw RSVP management (See Appendix A, Item 2 for Event Invitation)

• Liaised with all transportation suppliers including charter plane operator, coach operator, 4WD car hire company to coordinate arrival times

• While most guests arrived via the charter plane to board coaches for Rolleston, Premier Beattie’s team and Xstrata VIPS arrived in separate planes at Springsure. Locals arrived at the mine in their own transport. All required assigned chaperones, separate security and safety briefings and ferrying to the marquee

• Prepared chaperone schedule and brief (included key messages, Q&As and scripts) (see Appendix A, Item 3)

• Attention to detail for comfort packs while in-transit.

Event program

• More than 100 guests arrived at Emerald airport. All were greeted by an Xstrata chaperone and led onto waiting coaches. During the journey they were given a background of the area and the mine and safety briefings prior to their arrival on site

• Partnered with Queensland Rail to coordinate the simultaneous, dramatic arrival of a QR coal train as guests arrived in coaches (Xstrata made a $250 million investment in the construction of the Bauhinia rail link to the mine)

• Ensured the branded marquee had the desired effect – a 35mx15m, air-conditioned, themed marquee in the middle of a mine site in central Queensland was a novelty in itself

• All guests enjoyed a seated three-course lunch with speeches delivered by the Premier and Xstrata VIPs

• After lunch, all guests (bar VIPs) re-boarded the chaperoned coaches for their own site tour before boarding the returning coaches for Emerald and charter flights for their return to Brisbane

• As a gift from Xstrata Coal, all guests were presented with a leather, embossed compendium.

Prepare and communicate positioning

• Prepared key messages (see Appendix A, Item 3) and Q&As for chaperones and other Xstrata staff to ensure consistent messaging

• Prepared a corporate brochure which was distributed at Emerald airport as guests bordered buses for the mine (see Appendix A, Item 4)

• Prepared media kits including the launch release (see Appendix A, Item 5), site imagery (Appendix A, Item 6), the Rolleston brochure and QR material.

Create media opportunities

• The media program required the management of all materials - media release, imagery, video news release - and invitation and RSVP management

• An on-site ‘media room’ was allocated providing laptops, private rooms and landlines.

• A media conference was held as well as a separate mine tour with VIPs allowing photography and interviews

• Key journalists were strategically positioned with Xstrata Coal leaders throughout the day.

Build a news story

• Internally, the media program required Rowland to brief Xstrata on potential issues, prepare key messages and Q&As and identify likely angles to be raised by each journalist

• The angle selected strengthened the financial and exporting story of Rolleston

• Issued media release under embargo to radio outlets the night before to receive breakfast coverage.

Engage all media

• Invited a range of media from the surrounding districts of Rolleston

• Chaperoned a freelance photographer and directed him on imagery required for media purposes later used by wire services

• Issued a video news release comprised of raw footage of the mine to local television stations unable to attend the event

• Coordinated with the Xstrata plc head offices in London and Switzerland to distribute media material in international markets.


The Rolleston mine opening made a lasting impression on guests, proven by ongoing media interest and guest feedback to Xstrata (see Appendix A, Items 7 and 8). The event gave Xstrata Coal the confidence to maintain a proactive media program in Australia, building on the positive coverage achieved from the launch.

Through the launch event, Rowland secured 21 pieces of coverage including substantial articles in national outlets such as The Australian. Based on media coverage alone, Xstrata was positioned as a successful industry leader on an aggressive growth strategy.

“Anglo-Swiss mining giant Xstrata has opened the Rolleston coal mine in Queensland on schedule and within budget and promises more expansion…”

(Lead paragraph, The Australian, page 23)

The success of the event can be attributed to the behind-the-scenes planning and logistical attention to detail. Transporting more than 100 guests, some arriving from as far away as Switzerland and Japan and transforming a fully operational mine site into a sophisticated venue had its challenges. However, the results were clear. Every stakeholder at every touch point was left in no doubt as to Xstrata’s position as global leader in coal production.


All objectives of the event were met providing a 100 per cent degree of success.


Smooth successful event • No security/safety threats
• All activities ran to time
• Anecdotal feedback of guest ‘delight’
• All suppliers aware of roles and responsibilities – no mistakes or delays in activity
Xstrata positioning • Key messages used in all media
• Xstrata viewed by stakeholders as being on an aggressive growth path
• Public endorsement by Premier Beattie
Media management • 12 media in attendance
• Substantial, picture-inclusive coverage in national outlets including The Australian, The Australian Financial Review and several major metropolitans
including The Courier-Mail, The Adelaide Advertiser and The Age