Grosvenor accident triggers probe into underground coal mine safety

Image: Anglo American

The Queensland Government has appointed a mine safety board of inquiry to investigate more than 40 methane gas incidents in Queensland’s underground coal mines since mid-2019.

The inquiry follows the underground gas explosion at Anglo American’s Grosvenor mine near Moranbah on May 6, which put five miners in hospital.

The board members include retired district court judge Terry Martin SC, as chair, and professor Andrew Hopkins AO from the Australian National University, an expert in coal mine health and safety.

Anglo American is Queensland’s largest underground coal miner, operating in the methane rich area of the Bowen Basin.

The company has committed its full cooperation in the inquiry, stating that it was “an opportunity to continue to improve the management of methane and safety in underground mining.”

“Our priority remains the care of our five injured colleagues and (their) families,” Anglo American chief executive for metallurgical coal business Tyler Mitchelson said.

“Our own technical investigation into the Grosvenor methane ignition incident is underway with industry experts, including in the areas of methane and ventilation management and forensic fire analysis.

“The safety of our people is what is most important.  We want answers as to why an ignition of methane occurred at Grosvenor mine and we understand that everyone else does too.”

Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the board would inquire into the incident at Grosvenor mine as well as 40 other high potential incidents relating to the principal hazard of methane.

“The board will be able to conduct public hearings, call witnesses and make broad inquiries, findings and recommendations relating to the incident,” he said.

“They have been asked to determine the nature and cause of each of the Grosvenor accident and make findings in relation to the incidents.”

The board of Inquiry is to make recommendations for improving safety and health practices and procedures to mitigate against the risk of these incidents happening again.

The board’s report is expected by November this year.