The findings of an inquiry into a blast at the Grosvenor longwall and other gas incidents in underground coal mines have been put back six months.
An interim report indicates the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry regards the goaf as being of particular interest as the most likely source of the methane that ignited on the face at Grosvenor in May.
Board of Inquiry chair Terry Martin said it was no longer possible to hear all of the evidence regarding the 27 methane exceedances and serious accident at Grosvenor in the public hearings set to begin on Tuesday.
He said many witnesses had indicated they would refuse to answer questions that might tend to incriminate them.
Resources Safety & Health Queensland investigations into the May 6 blast at the Anglo American site near Moranbah, which seriously injured five men, had not concluded – meaning the potential for charges to be laid remained in question.
The Board accepted that the current refusal by witnesses to answer questions in the inquiry was justified, with the potential for such evidence to be used against them if prosecutions followed the investigations, Mr Martin said.
“Whilst there is a delay, relevant evidence from expert reports and public submissions will continue to be provided to, and considered by, the inquiry,” he said.
“To ensure that all relevant evidence about the Grosvenor mine will be available and given at one final tranche, the further public hearings will be listed for no earlier than mid-March 2021.”
Focus on inertisation of active goafs
Mr Martin said the only evidence likely to be called during the next two weeks would be expert evidence in relation to making coal mines safer in the future.
“Specifically, that evidence will relate to the prospect of introducing a practice of continuous inertisation of active goafs in Queensland mines,” he said.
This evidence will be given in a virtual hearing and live streamed from the Board’s website: www.coalminesinquiry.qld.gov.au.
As well as highlighting the focus on goaf management, the interim report outlines other key issues under consideration.
These include strengthening the Mines Inspectorate through strategies to consistently attract high-calibre candidates, as well as strategies to increase the number of mining industry personnel applying and studying for statutory certificates of competencies.
Natural Resources Mines and Energy Minister Anthony Lynham has agreed to extend the reporting deadline for the inquiry from November this year to May 31 2021.
Mr Martin has called for the Minister to have the relevant Act amended to maintain a witness’ right to claim privilege against self incrimination while also giving the Board the power to compel the witness to provide all relevant evidence in public at the inquiry.
- The interim report of the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry is now publicly available HERE