The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry has released Part I of its report to the Minister for Resources, the Honourable Scott Stewart MP, into the serious accident that occurred at Grosvenor Mine on 6 May 2020 and various high-potential incidents involving longwall-related exceedances of methane that occurred in the Queensland coalmining industry between 1 July 2019 and 5 May 2020. Part I of the report includes findings and recommendations in respect of most matters that have been the subject of inquiry to date.
Chapters pertaining to labour hire and the roles of the Site Safety and Health Representatives and Industry Safety and Health Representatives have been deferred, pending evidence concerning Grosvenor mine. The Board will continue preparing for further hearings this year. The Board will also investigate the continuous inertisation of active goafs, with any hearings required to address this matter to be held in February 2021. Hearings into all matters concerning the Grosvenor mine, including the serious accident and the methane exceedances identified in the Terms of Reference, will commence on 9 March 2021.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) has welcomed the release of Part I of the report, with QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane praising the ‘proactive decision’ by Anglo American (operator of the Grosvenor mine) to ‘go above and beyond’ international best-practice safety standards in its response to the incident, which he believes demonstrates how important workplace safety is to the company and the wider industry.
Macfarlane said the QRC will work closely with the Queensland Government to ensure the findings and recommendations from the Board of Inquiry are used to improve the industry’s safety standards. “The Queensland coal industry is a world leader in safe mining practices for good reason,” Macfarlane said. “Our industry takes safety extremely seriously and will continue to prioritise and advocate for safe work practices, including the use of automated and remote technology in high-risk areas to remove people from the risk of potential harm.”
CFMEU Mining & Energy Queensland President Stephen Smyth differed in his assessment of the report, believing it showed that mines may have complied with the letter of the law on critical safety issues like gas management, but were not taking a proactive approach. “They are doing the minimum required and that’s not good enough,” Smyth said. “Evidence given at hearings showed that mining companies make production and profits their top priority and that comes at the expense of fudging on best practice safety standards.”
Regarding the Grosvenor mine incident, Smyth said: “This was a highly traumatic event and our members at Grosvenor want the truth to come out. It’s important that this important enquiry continues and that it leaves no stone unturned regarding what happened leading up to May 6.” CFMEU Mining & Energy stated that the interim report has identified shortcomings in the identification and management of methane exceedances at Glencore and Anglo mines, revealing that High Potential Incidents were not treated seriously enough.
CFMEU Mining & Energy also expressed an interest in the final report’s consideration of the role of the casual labour work model. “We are also looking forward to the Board’s findings on the common work practice of employing underground coalminers as casuals — as the whole Grosvenor production workforce was employed,” Smyth said. “It is our experience that casuals are reluctant to raise concerns for fear of losing their jobs. The Union will continue to support our members and fight to improve safety.”
Part II of the Report will be provided to the Minister for Resources by 31 May 2021.
Part I of the report is available here, via the Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry website.