Anglo withdraws staff from Moranbah North underground coal mine

February 21, 2021 Mining Editor

A withdrawal of underground coal miners has occurred at an Anglo American Underground mine in Central Queensland. The withdrawal, which occurred on Saturday 20th February reportedly resulted from indicators of combustion in the Moranbah North underground coal mines goaf.

AMSJ understands that sub 50ppm levels of ethylene was detected in gas samples taken from the mine’s goaf area. In addition, high levels of carbon monoxide were also found in gas analysis samples indicating potential heating.

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A relative of mine staff said the mine was not explosive with a methane rich environment in the goaf area but “miners were concerned about the conditions being encountered in the goaf. Mine staff said they will refuse to go underground until its sorted” they said on condition of anonymity.

An Anglo American spokesperson told AMSJ, “Following a change in underground conditions at Moranbah North underground coal mine on 20 February, we undertook a controlled withdrawal of our people as a safety precaution in accordance with our procedures.

Anglo says that the conditions underground are normalising in response to the measures being taken.

“The trigger for the underground withdrawal was elevated levels of some gases in the goaf, which would indicate a coal heating issue and an overpressure event*. We have internal and external experts assessing various information sources in order to more accurately determine the cause of the event.

“At the time of the incident, we had been mining through some particularly challenging geology and every precaution was being taken.

“The conclusions from the expert review of the incident will inform a comprehensive risk assessment prior to re-entry, which will require regulatory approval.

“The safety of our workforce remains our priority and we are keeping them closely informed.”

AMSJ has been informed that the Queensland Mine Safety Regulator attended the site and has consulted with Anglo management on the planned safe return of the mine to operations.

Industry pundits believe that the control measures implemented over the weekend and today will be critical to ensuring the mine is returned promptly to normal operations. One retired inspector told AMSJ “It’s concerning that the mine has extensive levels of CO in the goaf. Let’s hope we don’t have a Peabody North Goonyella on our hands.”

The latest incident follows a protracted Board of Inquiry into the circumstances following the Grosvenor Mine Explosion and other high potential events occurring in Queensland mines.

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