Anglo American pledges $5 million to underground mining research

Anglo American has responded to Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry’s second report on last year’s Grosvenor underground coal mine incident with $5 million to fund underground mine research.

The research is hoped to improve the industry’s knowledge across technical areas to deliver a safer mining environment

This follows the board’s report into Anglo American’s Grosvenor underground coal mine gas leak incident last year which injured five people, which was tabled in Queensland Parliament by Minister for Resources Scott Stewart.

The board found Anglo American did not take proper action to control the gas at Grosvenor, which led to combustion.

Spontaneous combustion was also found to not be considered in Anglo American’s risk assessment.

“The gas emissions being generated by the mine’s rate of production were in excess of the capacity of the mine’s gas drainage system,” the report said.

Anglo American chief executive officer Tyler Mitchelson said the company has already begun to deliver the recommendations provided by the board and highlighted that the safety of the company’s workforce is always its main priority.

“We are today committing a further $5 million to fund underground mining research, in partnership with our industry research and technology partners, to improve the industry’s knowledge in certain technical areas,” he said.

“We have been clear from the outset that the incident on 6 May 2020 in which five of our colleagues were badly injured was unacceptable. The safety of our workforce is always our first priority.

“Over the past 12 months, we have put in place a range of measures to address issues that have come to light through detailed investigations and evidence before the Board of Inquiry.

“Over this period, we have already committed more than $60 million in technology pilots, additional gas drainage infrastructure, expert reviews and further improvements to a range of processes and controls.”

The company is confident it has or will address all recommendations from the board ahead of the restart.

“Anglo American’s Operating Model, our primary operational management system, is currently being updated at Grosvenor and, together with a range of other measures such as the use of data science, it will ensure we have the very latest in systems thinking, design and technology to ensure operational stability and control, and ultimately safe production,” Mitchelson said.

“The use of automation and remote operation presents us with the single biggest opportunity to remove people from high risk areas and we are fast-tracking this work across our operations, including commissioning ground-breaking research into automation in development mining with CSIRO.”

According to Mitchelson, underground coal mining is complex with further research into gas and spontaneous combustion management to make the industry safer.

“Underground coal mining, particularly in the area where Grosvenor mine is located, is complex with many interacting considerations and, as the board has identified, further research into certain technical areas such as gas and spontaneous combustion management would benefit the industry,” he said.

“We will be helping to advance knowledge in these areas through our further $5 million funding commitment.”

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