- Gas ventilation fans failed at Moranbah North coal mine this morning, according to the CFMEU
- The union says the mine was then re-powered without a thorough safety check
- Mine owner Anglo American has been contacted for comment
Steve Smyth from the CFMEU said at shift change this morning, gas ventilation fans failed at the Moranbah North mine and the mine was re-energised without a thorough check.
In February last year, grader driver and long-time employee Bradley Hardwick, 47, died following an underground collision at Moranbah North.
The mine is managed and operated by Anglo American, which also owns the Grosvenor Mine directly next to it where five men were injured in an underground explosion last month.
“[When] you re-power that mine or re-energise that mine, you’re sending electric power back into the mine through cables and if there’s gas present, then you’ve got a big issue,” Mr Smyth said.
“You can end up with explosive mixes of gas.
“I’ve been made aware that they did have high gas levels in certain areas of the mine at this time from the ventilation being reduced.
“Everyone knows that if you’ve lost ventilation to your mine, before you can re-energise or re-power you need to do a pre-shift inspection of the mine, re-examine the workings and then you go through a system of gradually turning the power on as you’ve inspected certain areas.
“You don’t just hit the button and turn it on.”
Mr Smyth said the event was especially concerning in light of the explosion at the neighbouring mine, also owned by Anglo American, which was still under investigation.
“There’s a lot of unanswered questions at the Grosvenor mine, there’s a lot of unanswered questions in the industry and yet we still continue to have these types of incidents going on,” he said.
“There’s already enough concern about what’s happened at the Grosvenor mine, they’re still trying to get to the bottom of what’s happened, they’re still trying to get to the potential source of ignition there let alone to have an incident or an event occur right next door.
“The big thing was the lack of communication to the workforce about it, they’re up in arms and they’re demanding a lot of answers, as we all should be, in light of what’s happening in and around the Moranbah area.”
He said the incident should be included in the Board of Inquiry looking into the Grosvenor incident, and 40 other gas-related High Potential Incidents in Queensland coal mines.
“I think the board of inquiry needs to broaden its terms of reference to look at this type of matter as well because it just really demonstrates a culture that employers have put in place through the way they manage their mines,” he said.
The Moranbah North mine began operating in 1998 and employs more than 600 people.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Queensland Mines Inspectorate (QMI) said it was notified of a planned withdrawal of workers at Moranbah North mine following a loss of electrical power at the mine site.
“QMI is on site investigating this High Potential Incident,” the statement said.
“No injuries were reported to the QMI in relation to this incident.”
Mining company Anglo American also issued a statement, acknowledging the shutdown.
“A power outage in the Moranbah area on 31 May resulted in a brief shutdown of the ventilation system at Moranbah North Mine,” it read.
“The mine was re-powered only when gas levels were within acceptable limits.”