The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry has postponed public hearings into the gas ignition event at Anglo American’s Grosvenor mine until March next year.
The public hearings, which relate to the accident that injured five workers, will form tranche 3 of the inquiry and were meant to commence on Tuesday September 15.
However, an investigation into the accident by the Queensland regulator has not concluded, leaving the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor unable to make any assessments or lay any charges.
Under section 216 (4) of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, many witnesses refused to incriminate themselves and answer questions by the board.
Queensland Coal Mining Board chairperson Terry Martin said that the board accepted that the current refusal to answer questions was justified.
“At this stage, it is problematic for these witnesses to answer questions at the inquiry about the 27 methane exceedances and the serious accident because, depending on the prosecutor’s assessment, any incriminating answers may subsequently be used in evidence against them,” Martin explained.
“There can be no criticism of the position taken by these witnesses. However, the consequence is that the board cannot at this stage meaningfully inquire into the 27 methane exceedances or the serious accident at Grosvenor mine.
“At this stage, the only evidence likely to be called during the next two weeks will be expert evidence in relation to making coal mines safer in the future.”
Despite the delay, the board will continue to accept expert reports and public submissions regarding the accident.
The board will hold tranche 2 hearings this month to hear expert evidence and advice on making coal mines safer.
Tranche 3 hearings will then be held in mid-March next year, investigating the high potential accidents of methane exceedances that occurred between July 2019 and May 2020, including the May 6 gas ignition event at the Grosvenor mine.