AMSJ » Workers ‘angry’ at no charges for coal mine blast says industry group
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Workers ‘angry’ at no charges for coal mine blast says industry group

Anglo Grosvenor mine meeting
Anglo staff meeting

Employees are annoyed and upset about the State Government’s failure to penalise a mining giant for a dangerous underground explosion in Central Queensland’s Isaac region.

Several coal mine workers expressed anger and dismay at the Office of the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor (OWHSP) for not charging Anglo American for the Grosvenor Coal Mine blast near Moranbah, 198km southwest of Mackay.

OWHSP prosecutor Aaron Guilfoyle found little to no chance of bringing the employer to justice for allegedly hospitalising five staff with severe burns, kidney failure and lung blood-clots back on 6 May 2020.

“A brief of evidence was referred to the OWHSP by Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RHSQ), following a comprehensive investigation into the potential causes of the incident led by RSHQ’s Coal Mining Inspectorate,” he said in a public statement.

“Having assessed the brief of evidence against the guidelines of the director of public prosecutions, I am not satisfied there exists a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction against any of the identified duty holders under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999.”

The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) claims the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry’s “damning” findings of mine mismanagement should have brought serious consequences to Anglo’s management team.

“I am personally devastated at this decision, having worked very closely with the Grosvenor miners as they have recovered from the explosion and dealt with the fallout,” Queensland district president Stephen Smyth said in public statement.

“I know that workers across our industry, especially those at Grosvenor mine who have just this week restarted longwall production, are angry. In an environment where our members get sacked for minor policy breaches, it is deeply unfair that a management team that oversaw a mine blowing up should face no consequences whatsoever.”

Smyth revealed many workers he spoke with still feel traumatised by the incident. The Board of Inquiry report had blamed mine managers for repeatedly failing to drain dangerous gases during production, and stopping work to manage “spontaneous combustion” at Longwall (LW) 104.

“Mining should not have occurred [and] workers were put at unacceptable risk in LW 104 for months prior to the explosion which, in turn, put all mineworkers at risk. The report painted a picture of an accident waiting to happen, it was a foreseeable event and no action was taken to protect the miners at Grosvenor,” he said.

He urged the OWHSP to quickly review its decision.

“We have workplace health and safety laws that provide for prosecution where negligence leads to serious injury or death. These laws are of no use if the government is too scared to use them against mining companies,” he said.

Anglo maintains it followed all regulatory requirements, and had already implemented safer technologies and equipment when mine operations “safely restarted”.

These upgrades include:

  • automated and remote operation of longwall equipment to remove people from hazardous mine areas
  • doubling gas drainage capacity and other new gas management infrastructure and systems
  • a new Remote Operations Centre to better control and access real-time monitoring data
  • a new Met Coal Analytics Centre for operational support in data science capabilities.

“Our scale in underground mining has allowed us to leverage technologies being developed and piloted at our other operations, to ensure Grosvenor mine restarted with the benefit of proven advancements in safety and technology,” Anglo metallurgical coal CEO Tyler Mitchelson said in a public statement.

“Removing people from harm’s way presents us with the single biggest opportunity to improve safety in our operations, and we will continue develop and implement technology solutions to improve safety across all our operations.”

Mitchelson acknowledged it has been a difficult time for employees, loved ones and the general public.

“The incident in 2020 has had a terrible and ongoing impact on our injured colleagues, their families, our workforce and the community, and they are in our thoughts. I would like to thank our Grosvenor workforce and the Moranbah community for their support, as we have worked towards a safe and successful restart of longwall mining,” he said.

Click here to read Anglo’s full underground mining safety and technology update.

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AMSJ April 2022