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Australian mine closed again a month after explosion, safety concerns raised at three mines

09 June 2020

Workers at three Anglo American underground coal mines in Queensland have raised concerns over safety and the management of dangerous gases following last month’s explosion at the Grosvenor coal mine in Moranbah which injured five workers. Workers have now been banned from going underground at the Grosvenor mine after rising gas levels heightened fears of another explosion.

Workers protest over safety at Moranbah North - Image: CFMEU
Workers protest over safety at Moranbah North - Image: CFMEU

According to Australian news website Mirage News, workers at the Grosvenor mine remain concerned that conditions in the underground mine have not been properly managed despite the May 6 methane explosion which injured five workers. Miners have now been banned by Anglo American from going underground at the site after gas levels began to rise, raising fears that another explosion could occur. 

The Brisbane Times reports that Anglo American stopped workers going underground as part of its action plan for spontaneous combustion risk. A spokesperson for the multinational mining giant told the Times that various gas levels were being closely monitored following May’s incident and that longwall mining activity has now been ceased to ensure the ongoing safety and integrity of the mine.

The spokesperson said inert gas was currently being pumped into the mine’s ventilation network to reduce the risk of combustion and that an exclusion zone has been established around the mine’s entry. Anglo American said that work at the mine will not restart until the underground environment has been proven safe. 

An inquiry into May’s explosion is ongoing with a report set to be published on November 30.

Elsewhere, at the nearby Moranbah North mine, workers have been protesting over the mine management’s refusal to meet with delegates from the Miners’ Union, CFMEU Mining and Energy, to discuss safety concerns.

According to CFMEU Mining and Energy, delegates at Moranbah North had sought a meeting with site management on June 5 to raise a number of safety concerns over issues including gas monitoring and the confidence of contractors to speak up about safety.

The union’s Queensland President Stephen Smyth said in a statement that workers’ safety fears have been amplified since the explosion at the Grosvenor mine. Smyth said: “It is unhelpful in the extreme at this time for Anglo management to be refusing any meeting with any worker regarding safety concerns, let alone elected workplace delegates. 

“To refuse a meeting over a false distinction between ‘industrial’ and ‘safety’ issues is to pretend that the way people work does not impact on the safety of a mine. Nothing could be further from the truth – the way people work, the way they are treated and the confidence they feel to raise safety concerns has everything to do with safety outcomes.”

Mirage News also reports that workers stopped working at Anglo American’s Grasstree mine near Middlemount on June 6. This came after protocols were breached when restarting a ventilation fan after a power outage, resulting in excessive gas entering the mine and risking ignition.

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