Workers at Anglo American’s Moranbah North mine are deeply concerned about the conditions that led to their withdrawal from the underground coal mine over the weekend, the Miners Union said today.
According to a spokesperson from Anglo American, following a change in underground conditions at Moranbah North Mine on 20 February, the company undertook a controlled withdrawal of its people as a safety precaution in accordance with its procedures.
“Conditions underground are normalising in response to the measures being taken,” the spokesperson said yesterday.
“The trigger for the underground withdrawal was elevated levels of some gases in the goaf, which would indicate a coal heating issue and an overpressure event. We have internal and external experts assessing various information sources in order to more accurately determine the cause of the event.”
“At the time of the incident, we had been mining through some particularly challenging geology and every precaution was being taken,” the spokesperson said.
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland President, Stephen Smyth, said it was a relief no-one was hurt when all crews were withdrawn on Saturday night due to the elevated gas levels that were detected following reports of an overpressure event.
“The most important thing is the safety of the workforce,” Mr Smyth said.
“But we should not lose sight of the seriousness of this event. Managing gas levels is core business in underground coal mines. To have gases detected that indicate the presence of advanced heating, in an area of the mine that has high gas, is extremely concerning.”
Mr Smyth said the focus must be on fully understanding what caused this event and ensuring it is 100 per cent safe before re-entry.
“The regulator must leave no stone unturned,” he said.
Mr Smyth added that the confidence of Queensland’s underground coal miners has been rattled by a series of events in the sector over the past couple of years.
“We’ve had the terrible explosion at Anglo’s Grosvenor mine last year, severely injuring five miners. We’ve had the fire that burnt out of control at Peabody’s North Goonyella mine.”
“We’ve also had a number of other ignition events such as spontaneous combustion (Cook and Ensham mines) and repeated damage to electrical equipment in explosion zones (Oaky North mine),” he said.
“Coal miners should not fear for their lives when they head underground to work. Underground mine operators and regulators have a lot of work to do to reassure workers of their safety and we will hold them to account every step of the way.”
Moranbah North is 88 per cent owned by Anglo American, with the remaining 12 per cent owned by joint venture partners. The mining operation employs more than 600 people, with Moranbah North estimated to have a mine life of 15 years.