One of the largest underground mines in Queensland has ceased operations to ensure worker safety after increased gas levels were detected.
- Moranbah North mine owned by Anglo American stopped operations on Saturday night
- The CFMEU says the closure due to threats to safety is a serious concern
- The Mining Board of Inquiry continues to investigate a mine blast, which injured five men, at a nearby site last year
Anglo American found heightened gas levels along its longwall at the Moranbah North mine on Saturday.
The mine is less than 15 kilometres from where five men were injured at the Grosvenor coal mine, also owned by Anglo American, last year.
The men suffered horrific injuries when methane ignited in an underground section of the mine.
CFMEU representative Stephen Smyth said the danger posed to workers was unacceptable.
“We’re not playing this up. This is serious stuff … In the last two to three years we’ve had a number of explosions,” he said.
“This is an underground mine that employs a lot of workers who need to be sure that their safety is going to be paramount.”
Mr Smyth said workers had the Grosvenor blast on their minds.
“They’ve been concerned since Grosvenor. They’re even more concerned now at Moranbah North,” he said.
Anglo American said in a statement its workforce’s safety was its priority.
“At the time of the incident, we had been mining through some particularly challenging geology and every precaution was being taken,” it said.
The Queensland Mines Inspectorate said it issued a directive to the mine operator to suspend all operations underground until the site senior executive could demonstrate the risk was at an acceptable level for coal mine workers to return underground.
Inquiry hearings to resume
The Coal Mining Board of Inquiry, which was set up to examine the Grosvenor explosion, identified gas exceedances were a major danger to miners.
Anglo American has indicated it wants to resume operations at Moranbah North and to re-enter Grosvenor to conduct safety inspections.
With inquiry hearings set to resume, Mr Smyth said he wanted clear changes to protect workers.
“The underground sector needs more than a safety reset. There needs to be legislative change. There needs to be real action taken.”
Resources Minister Scott Stewart declined an interview, and in a statement said he would not comment while the Board of Inquiry continued its work.
“I do not plan to provide commentary during the Board of Inquiry as it is important that the board make its findings without perceived interference or influence,” he said.