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Australian coal mine fire now under control

10 March 2014

Firefighters say a fire which has been burning at the Hazelwood open cut coal mine in Victoria for more than a month is now under control. The fire, which broke out on February 9, covered the nearby town of Morwell with thick, foul-smelling smoke for two-and-a-half weeks, prompting authorities to urge vulnerable people to relocate.

Stock image
Stock image

Victoria Fire Services commissioner Craig Lapsley said the fire was now under control, but that smoke would continue to rise from the mine until the next sustained period of rainfall, forecast for later in the week.

Victoria health authorities have advised the vulnerable to stay away from Morwell given that a temperature inversion has seen poor air quality return to the town.

Commissioner Lapsley welcomed the Government's official inquiry into the fire and says he has also instigated his own inquiry into fire management of open coal mines.

The Hazelwood coal mine is a large, open-cut brown coal mine, close to homes and a major power station that depends on the mine for supply. These factors mean that the Hazelwood fire posed a threat to safety of the community and to energy supplies. Another fire in 2006 at the Hazelwood mine caused a loss of generating capacity at the nearby power station.

In some instances, coal mine fires can burn for decades. The Jharia coal fire in India has been burning since at least 1916 and has caused serious health problems and subsidence in nearby villages.

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