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Mine Design and Safety Engineering Risk Management

Safety troubled Dartbrook mine set to re-open

dartbrook coal mine
The former 'safety' troubled Dartbrook mine is set to re-open.

ASX listed Australian Pacific Coal (reportedly part owned by the Tinkler family) is set to re-open the former mining safety troubled Dartbrook coal mine that saw three fatalities over a 12 year period under former owners Anglo Coal.

Australian Pacific Coal plans include re-opening the mine and extending its approval until 2027 and has given a range of assurances about mine safety following an extended history of poor safety practices at the site.

The Dartbrook mine is located in the Hunter Valley, NSW, approximately 4km west of Aberdeen and 10km north-west of Muswellbrook.

Anglo American closed the mine in 2006 amid falling coal prices, costs of operation and chequered history of mining safety issues including on-going spontaneous combustion events and three fatalities.

Australian Pacific Coal fully acquired the mine in May 2017  and in August 2018, the company announced it had signed a binding agreement to partner with Stella Natural Resources (SNR) as equal-share participants in the Dartbrook Joint Venture to recommence sustainable underground operations.

The company told the NSW Department of Planning that gas in the previously-mined Wynn Seam was “not expected to occur” in its proposed Kayuga Seam operations and “real-time” gas monitoring would ensure a safe workplace “at all times”.

The company also told NSW Government agencies that the risk of spontaneous combustion would also be managed by maintaining ventilation of all unsealed mine workings. The previously-mined Wynn Seam was “not expected to occur” in its proposed Kayuga Seam operations and “real-time” gas monitoring would ensure a safe workplace “at all times”.

The mine is expected to mine 1.5 million tonnes of coal per year and employ 99 workers using bord and pillar methods, the company said.

The Dartbrook mine carries with it a range of prosecution records for failure to maintain safety at the site. These events include:

  • On 1/10/2008 AMPControl RES Pty Ltd was convicted and fine $120K over a High risk injury and electric Shock in the Dartbrook Prep Plant in June 2005. Case Law here. On 24/9/2008 Anglo Coal (Dartbrook Management) Pty Ltd was also convicted and fined $200K for the same incident;
  • On 12 December 2007 Anglo Coal (Dartbrook Management) Pty Ltd  was convicted and fined $160K plus costs for their role in a fatal roof fall on the 28th May 2004. See Case Law Downer EDI Mining Pty Ltd (formerly known as Roche Mining Pty Ltd) was also convicted and fined $180K plus costs for their role in the incident. See Case Law;
  • On 19th November 2003, Anglo Coal (Dartbrook Management) Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $139,750 for a their role in a fatal accident where a pallet of mine seals toppled over fatally injuring mineworker. See CaseLaw Tecrete was also fined for the same incident $122,500 plus costs for the incident that occurred in 1997.
Former miners told AMSJ that under Anglo Coal that many spontaneous combustion events had occurred at the site. “It was prone to it” one former miner said.

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