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Springvale coal enforceable undertaking valued at $540K

springvale underground coal mine

Springvale Coal has had an enforceable undertaking approved with the NSW Mine Safety Regulator that will total more than $540K worth of mine safety improvements plus a range of community initiatives.

The undertaking follows a serious incident which saw the failure of a RUD link at the underground coal mine owned by Centennial Coal.

On 5 February 2019, a mineworker suffered serious injuries when he was hit by a bow shackle, after a RUD link failed during a towing operation at Springvale Colliery. 

The regulator says that “Before the incident, the worker and co-workers were unjamming an armoured face conveyor (AFC) chain at the longwall. The AFC chain had a flight bar jammed in the bottom race. The jammed flight bar was released and the AFC chain required inspection to assess damage. To help the inspection, workers decided to run the AFC in reverse and move the chain onto the top race. The tailgate slow runner drive on the AFC was not operational at the time. The maingate slow runner drive was not capable of moving the AFC chain. Workers decided to use the shearer (the longwall cutting machine) to support the maingate slow runner drive to move the AFC chain in reverse by towing the AFC chain with the shearer towards the tailgate end.”

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“Workers began to assemble a towing system to move the AFC chain using the shearer. The towing system consisted of a 35-tonne bow shackle, a 42-millimetre nylon rope and two ‘Recover Fast’ Kevlar 50-tonne tow strops fitted with 16-tonne coupling links and 16-tonne sling hooks at either end. The towing system was attached to the AFC chain, with the sling hooks of the tow straps hooked into the links of the AFC chain. The towing system was attached to the shearer using the 35-tonne bow shackle connected to an 8-tonne RUD link, which was fitted to the shearer.” 

Shortly after starting the task, the RUD link on the shearer failed, resulting in the sudden release of energy in the towing equipment. As a result of the incident, an operator was struck in the right ankle by a bow shackle. 

Following the incident Springvale Coal has initiated a range of improvement in health & safety at the mine including audits on mine safety systems, updated a mine safety training package on non standard complex towing, pulling and singing to include a range of improvements. It also provided a range of updated conditions in which new processes were to be used for nonstandard activities.

The mining company reportedly rolled out a complex lifting permit process together with requirements to ensure non-standard activities are to be certified by a person with a ‘dogman’ certification.

As part of the enforceable undertaking, the mine trained 203 mineworkers in the new processes and the new RIIUND207A –Conduct of underground lifting operation course and required 42 mineworkers to be trained in Dogman competencies and ultimately certifications.

Springvale will also:

  • provide underground workers with an Underground Safety Communication System (USCS), at a minimum cost of $150,000 
  • engage a registered training organization (RTO) to develop and deliver a bespoke resource and infrastructure training program for underground coal mine slinging, lifting and towing (SLT) tasks, at a minimum cost $100,000 
  • provide a donation to NSW Ambulance (Lithgow Station) to purchase a second first response recovery 4WD vehicle, a total cost of $150,000 
  • share its experiences and learnings associated with the projects to at least three mining industry conferences or seminars including the regulator’s mining engineering seminar 

The NSW Regulator’s Anthony Keon confirmed that the enforceable action was appropriate to the scale of the incident citing a range of related incidents where personnel were prosecuted at LakeCoal Pty over the failure of a ‘w strap’ at the mine which saw the mine fined $180,000, and it’ operational subsidiary LDO Operations fined $136,000.

Springvale is an underground coal mine located in the Western Coalfields near Lithgow in New South Wales. Using longwall mining methods coal is transferred by conveyor to surface facilities, where it is then transported by dedicated overland conveyors to Springvale Coal Services.  The coal is then processed predominately for domestic use at Mount Piper Power Station with the balance exported via Lidsdale Siding (train loading facility).

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