Smoke billows from the mine at North Goonyella from a fire that started in September 2018.
Smoke billows from the mine at North Goonyella from a fire that started in September 2018.

Inspectorate wraps up North Goonyella mine fire probe

AN INVESTIGATION into the North Goonyella underground fire has been finalised, but further steps will need to be taken before a final report about the probe is publicly released.

It has been two years since the spontaneous underground coal fire put the long-term viability of the site into question, with the potential to burn for years if efforts to extinguish it failed.

A Resources Safety and Health Queensland spokesman said the investigation had been finalised.

He said the Mines Inspectorate was now considering what action, if any, would be taken against any persons involved in the September 2018 incident.

"The Queensland Mines Inspectorate is currently considering potential compliance activity in relation to this incident," the spokesman said.

"Preliminary findings from the incident were released on August 9, 2019, and further information about the investigation will be published once the compliance process has finalised."

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Longwall mining at North Goonyella mine 160km west of Mackay in Queensland's Bowen Basin.
Longwall mining at North Goonyella mine 160km west of Mackay in Queensland's Bowen Basin.

A time frame for when this process would be finished was not provided.

Burdekin MP Dale Last said the community had "learnt nothing" so far from the North Goonyella investigation.

"The investigation into North Goonyella has gone nowhere for years because some witnesses, including government staff, won't give evidence," Mr Last said.

Preliminary findings into the fire backed up this claim, revealing that key persons of interest refused to be interviewed by the Queensland Mines Inspectorate.

"At this time, persons of interest have exercised their right under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 not to be interviewed by the inspectorate unless compelled by law to do so. As such, no interviews have been conducted yet," the preliminary report said.

Burdekin MP Dale Last. Picture: Evan Morgan
Burdekin MP Dale Last. Picture: Evan Morgan


The one-page document stated a review of the mine's records suggested that gas trends were not given sufficient consideration and some key reports relating to the mine's ventilation plan, gas alarm system and explosion risk zone controls did not appear to have been reviewed or countersigned by key personnel, as required.

North Goonyella Mine.
North Goonyella Mine.

It also stated there was evidence of insufficiently sealed boreholes, that the gas drainage system was being operated to focus on management of methane instead of the potential spontaneous heating event and evidence to suggest the mine did not follow its own procedures relating to major ventilation changes.

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The mines inspectorate said these were preliminary observations only and not conclusive findings.

Peabody declined to comment on the basis that the investigation had not yet been released.


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