Anglo American has halted operations at the Grosvenor coal mine in central Queensland after an accident that injured five people.
Anglo American has halted operations at the Grosvenor coal mine in central Queensland after an accident that injured five people.

Grosvenor blast: Mine inquiry report raises ‘likely’ cause

AN EARLY report into the horrific Grosvenor mine blast has pointed to the goaf area as a contributing factor in the underground methane ignition.

The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry interim report identified the probable cause of the explosion, based on a recording of the serious incident from the Explosion Risk Zone controller.

"The Board regards the goaf as being of particular interest as the most likely source of the methane that ignited on the face," the report said.

The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry will be given an extension on its reporting deadline, after its Interim Report was made publicly available. Picture: Daryl Wright
The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry will be given an extension on its reporting deadline, after its Interim Report was made publicly available. Picture: Daryl Wright

It comes as the inquiry, which began last month, faces delays and witnesses call for legislative changes to avoid mine workers incriminating themselves when they give evidence.

The report called on the State Government to change legislation, following a request from Anglo American's solicitors.

"Counsel Assisting was alerted to the prospect of widespread claims of privilege against self-incrimination by many, if not most, of the Anglo employees to be called as witnesses," it said.

The report called on Mines Minister Anthony Lynham to "amend (the Act) such that while a witness' right to claim privilege against self-incrimination is maintained.

"The Board also has the power to compel the witness to provide all relevant evidence in public at the Inquiry," it said.

 

An injured person from an explosion at Grosvenor coal mine at Moranbah pictured arriving at the Royal Flying Doctor Service on May 6. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning
An injured person from an explosion at Grosvenor coal mine at Moranbah pictured arriving at the Royal Flying Doctor Service on May 6. Picture: AAP/Josh Woning

 

 

 

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The legal hurdles have combined with other delays to put the extensive inquiry behind schedule.

While the May 6 Moranbah underground blast sparked the five-month inquiry, the board began questioning the cause of 40 other methane exceedances which occurred between July 2019 and the Grosvenor mine explosion in May.

 

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Anglo American metallurgical coal CEO Tyler Mitchelson arrives at Brisbane Magistrates Court to give evidence to Queensland's coal mining board of inquiry, investigating dangerous methane levels at Anglo's coal mines – including at its Grosvenor mine in central Queensland, where a methane explosion on May 6 badly injured five workers. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Anglo American metallurgical coal CEO Tyler Mitchelson arrives at Brisbane Magistrates Court to give evidence to Queensland's coal mining board of inquiry, investigating dangerous methane levels at Anglo's coal mines – including at its Grosvenor mine in central Queensland, where a methane explosion on May 6 badly injured five workers. Photo: Glenn Hunt

This included 27 high potential incidents at Grosvenor mine, 11 at Grasstree mine and one each at Moranbah North mine and Oaky North mine.

The interim report said the scale of the investigation, delays from other mining authorities and practical and legal hurdles, meant the investigation had been delayed.

"The Board's capacity to inquire into and determine the nature and cause of the serious accident has been necessarily delayed," it said.

"On 21 August 2020, notwithstanding that at that time the Board had not received any (Inspectorate) reports in relation to the serious accident.

"Depending on the availability of expert reports, there may well be days when the Inquiry does not sit, to ensure all parties have the opportunity to consider the material and prepare for evidence.

"In the absence of investigation reports from the Inspectorate and the experts' reports, the

Board could not further progress this inquiry in relation to the serious accident."

Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said he would extend the Board’s reporting deadline to May 31. Photo: Daryl Wright
Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said he would extend the Board’s reporting deadline to May 31. Photo: Daryl Wright

Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said he would extend the Board's reporting deadline to May 31.

"The Board advises that it is postponing until mid-March next year the public hearings that were scheduled to start next week," he said.

Burdekin MP Dale Last noted the interim report did not mention "the fact the Board identified issues with the Mines Inspectorate".

"If it weren't for my calls for the role of the Inspectorate to be included in the Inquiry, it is quite likely that a key part of the issues plaguing our mines would not have been considered by the Board," he said.

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"For the safety regulator to be recording notes on the back of a piece of paper and unable to locate data quickly and easily should be of great concern.

"If the minister was not aware of this issue before the inquiry then we need to know why and we need to know who thought an antiquated system was acceptable when it comes to the safety of our mine and quarry workers."

"The sharing of information about incidents is critical and, in other Australian and international jurisdictions, there is far more open and regular reporting than there is in Queensland.

"Knowledge is power and, where lives are at stake, we need to ensure we use every ounce of power we have available."



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