Mr Peabody & the Gang

Goonyella Gossip : Mr Peabody stays silent

OPINION & GOSSIP: It’s been a tumultuous week for Mr Peabody and the gang. Managing a mine fire is not easy business, even if you’re one of the world’s largest and most professional coal mining organisations. Of course having received the sign off from the oracle (Queensland Government) for your strategy in controlling the fire, makes it easier…doesn’t it Mr Peabody?

As any organisation with an interest in improving mining safety would do, we put a range of questions to Mr Peabody regarding the mine fire this week, only to find that there was no comment and all would be revealed after the event following an “independent” (funded by Mr Peabody) Inquiry. You can read our opinion article here.

We understand that because its Friday evening here in Australia it’s in the best interest of keeping this story short. So we’ll focus on the top four rumours.

Of course we write this piece because since our article was published, we received a range of interesting snippets of information from many close to the action…and some far away. We thought we’d share a little gossip with our readers over the next few days until Mr Peabody and the gang can finally put a stake through the heart the rumours and innuendo and have a “come to Jesus” moment with the public and the stakeholders affected by this incident.

We re-iterate, of course, that the information we received is both unconfirmed purely industry gossip, but as Mr Peabody knows all too well – Where there’s smoke, there’s also fire.

Rumour One

Ventilation – according to rumours, ventilation pressures at the site have markedly increased over time and, to the point that the mine’s ventilation prior to the incident was enough to blow your hat off in a range of areas. So you say…so what? Well as those who are close to underground coal will know, if you’ve got coal with a high propensity for spontaneous combustion, you probably want to minimise the amount of air you blow over it. If you’ve ever lit a camp fire you will know that you blow on the embers to get the fire going.

According to rumours, it seems this small inconsequential fact may have escaped Mr Peabody who, over the last several years has reduced the size of the mine and possibly increased air pressure and volume in the mine by up to three times. But of course this is unconfirmed rumour and we wouldn’t want you to get your hopes up high on speculating that this may have led to problems in the mine.

Rumour Two

Ventilation – while we are on the subject of ventilation, rumours are spreading across the underground coal industry thick and fast that in the midst of the heating – a Ventilation Officer (VO) went missing. That’s right…our rumour tree has confirmed that the site’s VO was no where to be found. Of course it may not be true…but then again it could be true. I guess if my mine was on fire and I was the VO, I’d probably go missing too. Thanks to Mr Peabody, they conscripted another willing volunteer/contractor who (according to rumours only) took direction from the USA on control strategies…who according to rumours…were pretty incompetent in managing Spontaneous Combustion events at the North Goonyella site.

Rumour Three

Inertisation – Well rumour has it that the initial inertisation strategy involved the use of five Floxal Nitrogen generator units. Of course given the size of the problem when they were deployed  it was like trying to fight a bushfire with a cup of water. Ok maybe that’s a little harsh, a bush fire with a bucket of water. Of course as one miner put it to us much more eloquently than we can describe “It was like pissing on a burning can of petrol… we all knew it wouldn’t work but they wanted to try it anyway” 

As we know the Queensland Government at this time were standing by, measuring gas concentration levels from the tube bundle system, which of course were showing hydrogen as a clear indicator of a mine fire.

Rumour Four

Independent Advice – Mr Peabody clearly knows the value of independent advice in a situation like this.  If you’ve got a mine on fire, having someone independent is critical to mitigating your liability for such a disastrous event. An independent expert is the “ducks guts” for being able to state that you essentially were guided by a professional who knew what they were doing. Of course as our rumour mill spilled over this week, we found that Mr Peabody had clearly sought appropriate help.. in the absence of the VO who went missing for a time.

A team of three gas chemists to measure your fire is definitely very important. A specialist boffin who can look at the measurement data is equally important. Most importantly is having people who worked at the site previously and knew the conditions of the burning mine. Mr Peabody it seems had them all. The latter three in the form of Queensland Government Mines Inspectors.

Well this is of course rumour, but as we understand that the Queensland Government deployed experienced help to the site to assist Mr Peabody regulate the fire. That is of course what a regulator does…isn’t it? They regulate. But in this instance they were potentially ex- site employees, so they rolled up their sleeves on behalf of the Queensland Government and signed off on the strategy to control the fire.

But you may ask, aren’t they meant to regulate and prosecute offenders against the law?

Oh Mr Peabody…you are soooo clever. We’re totally in awe of you!

Next week in Goonyella Gossip, we’ll bring to light some more innuendo and gossip on the Goon Show.

Of course we stress that Mr Peabody is a fictional character and the story is based on industry gossip and probably is not true…or then again, it may be. We are certain that Mr Peabody will bring the facts to light after his independent inquiry.

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