North Goonyella Mine.
North Goonyella Mine. Melanie Whiting

DETAILS REVEALED: report released on horror mine blaze

KEY persons of interest in an investigation into the underground coal fire at North Goonyella Mine last year have refused to be interviewed by the Queensland Mines Inspectorate, it has been revealed.

The mines inspectorate has released a one-page document on its preliminary observations into the September incident, where a spontaneous underground coal fire put the long-tern viability of the site into question, with the potential to burn for years if efforts to extinguish it failed.

Last month, mine owner Peabody announced workers would re-enter Zone1 of the site, in consultation with the mines inspectorate, as part of a comprehensive, phased re-ventilation and safe re-entry plan for the Bowen Basin mine.

Smoke billows from the mine at North Goonyella
Smoke billows from the mine at North Goonyella Contributed

The mines inspectorate has reviewed more than 11,370 files, including ventilation records, gas data and the mine's safety and health management system, including relevant trigger action response plans (TARPs).

"At this time, persons of interest have exercised their right under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 not to be interviewed by the inspectorate unless compelled by law to do so. As such, no interviews have been conducted yet," the preliminary report said. 

A Peabody spokeswoman said it was not aware that anyone had been compelled at this time.  

"It is the individual's decision whether to participate in a voluntary interview and, based on the way the regulations are structured, an individual may prefer to be compelled to be interviewed by the Inspectorate to preserve certain legal rights, rather than do so voluntarily," she said. 

READ MORE: North Goonyella an explosion waiting to happen: Fire expert

The report stated a review of the mine's records suggested that gas trends were not given sufficient consideration and some key reports relating to the mine's ventilation plan, gas alarm system and explosion risk zone controls did not appear to have been reviewed or countersigned by key personnel, as required.

Smoke billows from the mine at North Goonyella
Smoke billows from the mine at North Goonyella Contributed

It also stated there was evidence of insufficiently sealed boreholes, that the gas drainage system was being operated to focus on management of methane instead of the potential spontaneous heating event and evidence to suggest the mine did not follow its own procedures relating to major ventilation changes.

The mines inspectorate said these were preliminary observations only, and not conclusive findings. 

The Peabody spokeswoman said it had worked closely with QMI and the company had been open and transparent. 

"We look forward to continuing to work with QMI in a constructive fashion as we reventilate and re-enter the mine," she said. 

The investigation is continuing.

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