The NSW Resources Regulator will lead a causal investigation into an incident in which seven coal mine workers sustained minor injuries during a conveyor extension in a longwall development panel at Ulan West Operations near Mudgee, NSW.
The purpose of this causal investigation is to enable the quick and full understanding of the causes of this incident, and publication of corresponding lessons to industry in a timely manner to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence.
At 12.36pm on 29 August 2017, seven workers were conducting a planned conveyor belt extension in maingate development panel MG5. This process involved advancing the dynamic move-up unit (DMU) which forms part of a system known as a flexible conveyor train (FCT). This system is used to transfer coal from a continuous miner to the panel mine conveyor. The DMU advancing process includes reducing tension in the panel conveyor belt system from its normal operating set-point, and isolating certain parts of the conveyor drive systems. The DMU is then advanced using hydraulic rams, which causes belt to be pulled from the conveyor storage unit (commonly known as a loop-take up) located at the conveyor drivehead.
During this extension, an over-tensioning of the belt has occurred causing a failure of a linkage point between the DMU and the conveyor tail-end, breaking large steel components. The release of stored energy then resulted in the tail-end unit being dragged some 15-18m by the belt, impacting on the installed conveyor structure, and also the workers who were standing in the area. No person was seriously injured.
A preliminary assessment undertaken by the regulator of the incident did not identify any material breaches of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the regulator has no intention of conducting any further investigation into any potential non-compliance issues or taking any criminal enforcement action. The focus of ongoing inquiries is to identify the causal issues associated with the event in accordance with the Regulator’s Causal Investigation Policy.
Stakeholders have been invited to participate, including the mine operator, the equipment designer and manufacturer, workers, health and safety representatives and industry and mine safety and health representatives.