The State Government has announced an independent mine safety Board of Inquiry following a coal mine explosion last week that left five men with serious burns.
Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the board would be able to conduct public hearings, call witnesses and make broad inquiries, findings and recommendations relating to the underground gas explosion that occurred at Anglo-American’s Grosvenor coal mine outside Moranbah.
“Last week’s underground gas explosion is something the industry has not experienced for more than quarter of a century,” Dr Lynham said.
“An underground gas explosion in a coal mine is simply unacceptable in the 21st century.
“As serious as it was, it could have been far worse, as every underground coal miner and their families know.
“The inquiries that followed the underground gas explosions at Moura changed mine safety in Queensland.
“This latest board of inquiry is an opportunity to continue this government’s sweeping reforms to protect mine workers.”
The last Queensland mine gas explosion was Moura No 2 in 1994, when 11 men failed to return to the surface.
A Mining Warden’s Inquiry – forerunner of boards of inquiry – made a number of recommendations, including around self-rescue apparatus for miners, training for managers and requirements for safety and health management systems.
Dr Lynham said a shortlist of board of inquiry members was being considered and terms of reference refined.
“I expect to be able to announce the board membership and detailed terms of reference by the end of May, with the inquiry to commence immediately,” he said.
“The board will conduct its inquiry so as not to prejudice any potential future prosecutions.
“It will provide an interim report before the election, which I will table in Parliament, and a final report, also to be tabled.”
Anglo American issued a statement this afternoon saying it would cooperate fully in all investigations into the Grosvenor methane ignition incident.
Chief executive officer of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said: “We want answers as to why an ignition of methane occurred at Grosvenor mine and we understand that everyone else does too.
“We have already commenced our own technical review into the incident with industry experts, including in the areas of methane and ventilation management and forensic fire analysis.”
Mr Mitchelson said the company would not recommence mining at Grosvenor until it knew what happened and how to prevent any recurrence.
A staged re-entry into the mine began on Sunday to safely access the longwall area where the incident occurred and Mr Mitchelson said an expert technical investigation began today.
“As part of our staged re-entry, tomorrow some of our workforce will start work in other areas of the mine complex, where the work is essential for the ongoing safety and integrity of the mine while the investigations proceed,” he said.
“It would not be right for us or anyone else to comment on the circumstances leading up to this incident, as this will all form part of the thorough expert investigation. It is therefore very premature for anyone to speculate on the causes of this particular incident.”