Today we remember four men who lost their lives underground in the Gretley Colliery mine disaster when they mined into old workings and an inrush took their lives.
At about 5.30 am on 14 November 1996 employees of The Newcastle Wallsend Coal Company Pty Limited, were engaged in work on the night shift at the company’s mine, the Gretley Colliery.
Four men of a team of eight were in the process of developing a roadway (known as C heading) in an area of the mine called 50/51 panel, operating a continuous mining machine. The remaining four members of the team were in a crib room a little distance away.
Suddenly, with tremendous force, water rushed into the heading from a hole in the face made by the continuous miner. That machine, weighing between 35 and 50 tonnes, was swept some 17.5 metres back down the heading where it jammed against the sides.
The four men were engulfed by the water, swept away and drowned. The remaining team members survived the disaster by reason of being in the crib room, which itself was flooded. The deceased men were: Edward Samuel Batterham, mining deputy, 48 years of age; John Michael Hunter, miner, 36; Mark Kenneth Kaiser, mechanical fitter, 30; Damon Murray, miner, 19.
The water came from the long-abandoned old workings of the Young Wallsend Colliery. The mine was working to a plan, which had been approved by the Department of Mineral Resources.
The plan showed the Young Wallsend Colliery more than 100m away from the point of holing-in. It is now clear that the plan was wrong.
At the commencement of the night shift at 11.00pm on 13 November 1996, the Young Wallsend Colliery was only 7 or 8 metres away. The workings of the old mine were full of water. Moreover, the water extended to the surface by means of the mine shafts, thereby providing what is known as a head of water. This head of water had the effect of significantly increasing the water pressure.
Excerpt from “Report of a formal investigation under Section 98 of the Coal Mines Regulation Act 1982 by his Honour Acting Judge J.H. Staunton” Read the full report by following the link.
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