South32 resumes NSW coal operations following safety emergency

South32 has temporarily suspended its operations at the Appin and Dendrobium metallurgical coal mines in New South Wales due to a safety issue over mining equipment.

The company withdrew hundreds of underground workers from both Illawarra metallurgical coal mines after discovering a number of compressed air breathing apparatus were defective.

The devices provide breathable air to facilitate the escape of workers in the event of an underground emergency.

Safe to Work understands the defect has caused the apparatus to leak air when being worn.

“The safety and wellbeing of our people is paramount, and we voluntarily withdrew our underground workforce at both mines,” a South32 spokesperson told Safe to Work.

“We have commenced a safe and orderly return to production and do not expect any material impact on shipping obligations or production guidance.”

The NSW Resources Regulator has contacted the equipment supplier and those mines using the equipment to determine their next course of action ensures worker safety.

The mines impacted are also undertaking testing of units and sourcing alternative equipment to maintain appropriate emergency escape capability, the Regulator added.

The Appin and Dendrobium underground mines produce high quality metallurgical coal used for steelmaking.

South32 reported a 57 per cent increase in production at the mines during the 2019 financial year following improved longwall performance.

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