Grosvenor Mine owner applies for underground re-entry
Anglo American has applied to re-enter an underground mine near Moranbah where five workers suffered horrific burns in an explosion eight months ago.
The mining giant has filed an application with Resources Safety and Health Queensland t re-enter the Grosvenor mine to perform safety and compliance inspections.
An Anglo American spokeswoman said the application would also enable the restoration of power and gas monitoring.
Five workers suffered serious burns when methane exploded underground on May 6 last year. Four of the five workers are reportedly still undergoing treatment.
The mine has been shut since a second blast on June 8 last year. No injuries were reported in that incident.
The source of the ignition in either blast is yet to be identified.
"The area of the mine where the ignition occurred has been permanently sealed with large concrete seals," the Anglo spokeswoman said.
"We have been keeping our workforce and their representatives closely informed of the steps we are taking to re-enter the mine, and believe we have a mutual understanding of the importance of our workforce of safely resuming mining at Grosvenor in the second half of this year.
"Since ceasing production activities in May 2020, we have continued to support our workforce and hold regular engagement sessions where we are listening and responding to any feedback.
"Our Grosvenor Mine is currently seeking approval from RSHQ to re-enter the mine to perform safety and compliance inspections, including restoring power and gas monitoring.
"This is the next step in a number of stages before re recommence longwall mining, and we have been addressing feedback from RSHQ during this process."
The spokeswoman said the company believed it understood the source of the gas "based on the information available", but that it had not been able to confirm an ignition source.
"We have not seen the details of RSHQ's investigation and findings," she said.
"In the absence of having a confirmed ignition source, we have extensively risk assessed all potential sources and committed to a range of measures to improve our controls and introduce further technological innovations across our underground mines.
"This includes fast-tracking the use of automation and remote operation including through the purchase of new longwall equipment for Grosvenor Mine, piloting sensor technology, introducing a further layer of quality control for the supply of underground mining equipment, and establishing a data analytics centre to support our operations."
The move to re-enter the mine comes despite claims by CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth who told The Australian he had met with 70 Grosvenor miners on Monday and told him they were fearful of re-entry.
"To a man and woman, they said they are fearful to enter that mine again, when they don't know what's happened (to cause the explosion) and the same leadership team … that's blown up the mine twice is still in charge," Mr Smyth said.
"We support the reopening of the mine, but it's got to be done safely."
A spokesperson for RSHQ said the mines inspectorate had spoken to Grosvenor about the conditions under which a re-entry could happen.
"The mines inspectorate's decision-making is risk-based. Re-entry of the mine and restarting coal mining operations may only occur where the operator has appropriate systems and controls in place to prevent an unacceptable level of risk associated with these activities,'' the spokesperson said.
The Anglo spokeswoman said while the findings of RSHQ's investigation had not yet been shared with the company or the wider industry.
"We continue to capture and action relevant learnings within our business, including from the Board of Inquiry," the spokeswoman said.
"This includes a technology program to fast-track automation and remote operation which will be key to achieving a step-change in safety in underground mining and ensuring our systems and processes extend beyond current industry best-practice."
Anglo also has technology pilots under way to support the development of new controls in underground mining, and has partnered with the CSIRO to undertake a world-first trial of technology to support underground operations.