Anglo American’s Moranbah North Mine was evacuated overnight Saturday after a ‘change in underground conditions’.
Anglo American’s Moranbah North Mine was evacuated overnight Saturday after a ‘change in underground conditions’.

Regulator reveals why CQ miners were evacuated

A potential spontaneous heating event in a longwall panel triggered an evacuation of workers at a Moranbah mine, the industry safety regulator has said.

Anglo American management at Moranbah North withdrew workers overnight Saturday "following a change in underground conditions", a company spokeswoman said.

The Queensland Mines Inspectorate has issued a directive to the mine operator suspending all operations underground until the site senior executive can demonstrate the risk is at an acceptable level for coal mine workers to return underground.

"All coal mine workers were withdrawn from Moranbah North underground coal mine, after mine management identified carbon monoxide and ethylene gas levels in the gas monitoring system that indicated a potential spontaneous heating in the longwall panel," a Resources Safety and Health Queensland spokeswoman said.

"Although the mine's operator Anglo American has reported that gas concentrations in the mine had returned to normal levels by Sunday February 21, the mine has not yet identified the cause of the elevated levels and actions that will be taken to prevent a re-occurrence of this high potential incident.

"Under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, a mine's site senior executive must investigate a high potential incident to determine its causes and make recommendations to prevent the incident happening again."

An Anglo American spokeswoman said elevated levels of some gases in the goaf, which would indicate a coal heating issue and an overpressure event, triggered the evacuation of workers.

An overpressure event is a change in ventilation on the face.

The Daily Mercury understands there is no evidence an explosion occurred and methane levels on the longwall were within regulatory levels.

"We have internal and external experts assessing various information sources in order to more accurately determine the cause of the event," the Anglo spokeswoman said.

"At the time of the incident, we had been mining through some particularly challenging geology and every precaution was being taken.

"The conclusions from the expert review of the incident will inform a comprehensive risk assessment prior to re-entry, which will require regulatory approval."

Anglo American’s Moranbah North mine. Picture: Tara Miko
Anglo American’s Moranbah North mine. Picture: Tara Miko


CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said an emergency evacuation of workers from underground was not normal for mine sites.

Mr Smyth also claimed mine management were using risk assessments to facilitate the return of workers underground the next day - but the Anglo American spokeswoman has described this claim as "completely untrue".

"(Union) safety representatives have been on site and they've got concerns with what has happened at this point," Mr Smyth said.

"Certainly it's concerning."

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MINE INQUIRY: 'Methane exceedances not inevitable'

The incident has been reported to the mines inspectorate. Picture: Zizi Averill
The incident has been reported to the mines inspectorate. Picture: Zizi Averill

 

Mr Smyth said the evacuated workers were in "good spirits" but were wanting more answers around the events of Saturday night.

"They haven't been getting all the information," he said.

"People are concerned about their safety but also their employment."

The Anglo spokeswoman said the safety of the workforce remained its priority and the company was keeping them closely informed.

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