Mine gas monitoring reforms for Queensland mines

December 12, 2019 Mining Editor

Mine gas monitoring reforms will come into effect for Queensland underground coal mines from the 6th January 2020.

According to Mines Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham the reforms will place tighter controls on methane gas monitoring. Minister Lynham said the prevention and early detection of methane related risks were vital to protect workers in Queensland’s nine operating underground coal mines.

AMSJ has been unable to obtain the specific regulations as they appear not to have been published in the Queensland Government Gazette, but it is believed that they have been accepted by the Queensland Government Mining Safety & Health Advisory Committee and will require increased monitoring and action points in tailgates of longwall mines.

The gas monitoring reforms follow regulatory compliance audits conducted by the Queensland Mines Inspectorate during 2017 and 2018 which reportedly found that, while gas monitoring systems in underground coal mines complied with the requirements of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, a number of mines had failed to report incidents where methane levels in mines exceeded required limits of 2.5%.

In one Queensland mine, the mines inspectorate found that there were 264 methane gas exceedance incidents but the mining company only reported 22 of those incidents to the mines inspectorate.

The Department reportedly identified that methane concentrations in tailgate areas across a range of longwall mines had potentially reached limits on many times presenting critical risks for mineworkers.

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As a result, a number of mines across Queensland established gas monitoring in tailgate areas that were interlocked to the shearer. This initiative ensured that electrical sources in the shearer were isolated when methane concentrations reached trigger action response TARP levels.

Dr Lynham said that “These reforms will put methane controls as yet another health and safety reform protecting our underground coal mine workers.”

The new regulations will also require additional methane monitors in our underground coal mines.

Dr Lynham said the reforms had come after extensive consultation with key stakeholders including unions, the Queensland Resources Council, site senior executives and, most importantly, mineworkers on the coal face.

“The resources regulator will continue to work with underground coal mines to ensure these new measures are implemented as soon as possible,” he said.

“Our reforms have revolutionised the protection, detection and safety net for all current and former mineworkers.

“We will remain vigilant in ensuring our reforms continue to have effect because all Queenslanders, especially our mineworkers, deserve a safe workplace” Dr Lynham added.

Over one hundred exceedances of safety limit

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland District safety inspector Jason Hill said the government was stepping in because the industry had shown it wasn’t up to the task of managing dangerous gas levels underground. 

“We have witnessed too many gas exceedances in underground mines in the past two years,” said Mr Hill. 

“There have been over 100 occasions where methane levels have been above the danger limit of 2.5% – including recently at Anglo’s Grasstree mine. 

“Disasters like New Zealand’s Pike River show us the deadly consequences when dangerous gases aren’t properly monitored and managed. 

“These new reforms send an important message to industry that if mining companies can’t or won’t ensure the highest levels of safety, the government will step in. 

AMSJ will post links to the new mine gas monitoring regulations when available, however, mines should also refer to AS/NZS 2290.3:2018, “Electrical equipment for coal mines – Introduction, inspection and maintenance, Part 3: Gas detecting and monitoring equipment” which, among a range of concerns, imposes a new requirement to routinely measure the response time of installed gas detection systems.

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