Industry Safety Bulletin, News

NSW mines experience a series of gas ignitions

gas ignition

The NSW Resources Regulator is warning mine operators to be vigilant after a series of accidental methane gas ignitions in underground coal mines.

In an underground mine, frictional ignition is a hazard that can result in a coal dust explosion, so minimising the risks is essential to keep workers safe.

“There have been several frictional ignitions in both longwall and development panels over the past year,” the Regulator said.

“Each incident had different contributing factors, but all were an unplanned ignition of methane gas in a production district.

“None of the incidents resulted in injury to workers, but all of the incidents had the potential to cause injuries.”

In one instance, poor ventilation led to a pooling of gas in a roof cavity. A continuous miner accidentally ignited the gas while sumping in at the roof. Sparks were observed.

Another incident occurred while a continuous miner was cutting coal. Fire was spotted on the coal face over the continuous miner and towards the shuttle car. It spread to the roof where it burned until workers were able to extinguish it with a hose. The ignition resulted in the miner driver and cable hand being knocked to the ground without injury.

A similar incident occurred when another continuous miner was in the process of cutting. The operator reported that the cutter head was not more than 1m off the floor when the frictional ignition event occurred. Witness statements reported multiple bangs like thunder being heard, before a roaring sound. A flame was observed immediately following the reported sounds.

“Mine operators should review the adequacy of their controls against frictional ignition and remedial controls if an ignition occurs, within their safety and health management system,” the Regulator said.

This review should include but not be limited to:

  • frictional ignition management plans
  • management of in situ gas content
  • gas drainage requirements
  • cutting sequences
  • face ventilation requirements
  • pre-use checks regarding picks and sprays
  • stone dusting requirements
  • gas drainage hole intersection procedures
  • frictional ignition trigger action response plans.
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