CQ mine-blast road rage grows as alternative not found
MINING giant Anglo American denies any claims blasts have caused further damage to Gibihi Rd after drone photos emerged of the canyon-like split.
The vital haulage route and local thoroughfare was torn up during a routine mine blast on November 9, to the peril of locals whose detour via Kianga Rd is four times the distance.
Investigations uncovered cracks extending from 60m to 90m in the underlying rock beneath the road from "legacy mining operations", and Gibihi Rd was subsequently deemed "extremely unstable" and a "non-viable" to re-open.
Grain farmer John Eden's Moura property borders the mine, and is among the groundswell of locals whose frustration is mounting over the apparent lack of action to open or create a viable alternative route.
During a series of meetings with Anglo American officials, Mr Eden has proposed his and what he believes is "most people's" preferred option; to re-open Three Chains Rd.
The stretch has been "temporarily closed" since 2011, due to be re-opened in July 2015 before Anglo were granted an extension provided there were no "extenuating circumstances" to the agreement.
When asked a series of questions, including whether the company considered Three Chains Rd an alternative route and if so, when it would re-open, Anglo alluded they would share details of road options at a town meeting last night.
"Understanding road usage and community requirements was the purpose of our road options focus groups, which we held over the past few weeks," a spokesperson said.
More than 120 community members participated in the focus groups, and a spokeswoman said "all feedback had been factored into our road design and structural assessments".
The spokeswoman said this information would be shared at the Moura Tavern meeting, but said it would "not be appropriate" to comment further on progress or details of each road option beforehand.
"Also, any decisions on roads will be a Banana Shire Council matter and we continue to work closely with council to arrive at the best long term solution for all stakeholders," she said.
Anglo's mining lease encompasses the Gibihi Rd, and was granted on December 16, 1971 under the Thiess Peabody Coal Pty Ltd Agreements Acts of 1962 for the "purpose of mining coal and gaseous hydrocarbons".
The Banana Shire Council previously sent correspondence to local residents to explain this, and stated "the agreement under the Act overrides Local Government Laws in dealing with this type of issue".
An Anglo spokesperson responded after Mr Eden shared his frustrations with The Morning Bulletin, along with photos of the crater taken just 3km from his property.
Mr Eden claimed it appeared areas had worsened as the Dawson Mine continues to blast, but Anglo have refuted this.
He told of one family who drove about 160km per day to get their kids to and from school, given there is no longer a bus operating.
"Anglo American understands the frustration and inconvenience caused by the unexpected closure of Gibihi Road," a spokesperson said Monday.
"Immediately following the blast, an exclusion zone and a highly sensitive, slope stability monitoring system was implemented, both remain in place today.
"No blasting in this vicinity, nor in the vicinity of Gibihi Road occurred over the weekend.
"No further deterioration of the damage has been indicated by the monitoring system."
While there had been speculation Anglo had deliberately orchestrated the blast to close the road, the company's chief executive officer David Diamond said this was "totally incorrect".
Among the series of online updates, Mr Diamond stressed on February 23 the blast that triggered the ultimate road failure was "routine" and has had extensive internal and Mines Inspectorate investigations to "confirm compliance with approved standards".
"In no way was the blast on 9 November expected or designed to cause damage beyond the pit boundary.
"Any speculation regarding the intent behind the blast or that we have put our people and members of the community in this situation intentionally is totally incorrect.
"The mine, in its long history, has never been operated more professionally."
Mr Diamond also explained the parallel haul road to the north of the pit was closed, however, the south haul road remains in use.
"We did explore the option of using this as temporary access, however haul roads are built specifically for mining equipment and the usage is monitored under stringent site safety systems - we deliberately isolate this equipment from light vehicles to manage the risk of a serious incident," Mr Diamond explained.
"Haul roads also do not meet required road standards for public safety and the instantaneous strata failures we experienced in Gibihi Road cannot be discounted."
- Gibihi Rd severely damaged in a blast on November 9
- Current alternative route is Kianga Rd, about four times the distance for some
- n February 23, Anglo advise it is "not viable" to re-open Gibihi Rd
- Anglo expected to advise of alternatives at meeting on Wednesday, March 21