Underground pipedream becomes reality in Emerald

IT’S been three years in the making but this Friday an underground mine simulation shed will be launched in Emerald where mining cleanskins and experienced hands alike can actually “see and feel” an underground roadway as part of their training.

Angie Tomlinson

Lennon Training has built a 21m long, 2.4m high, 5m wide roadway complete with 7m deep cut-through in the middle of Emerald, Queensland.

 

The $A250,000 underground mine simulation has been aimed at training miners where they can actually carry out tasks in a realistic environment.

 

The Australian underground coal industry has long thrown around the idea of opening a disused mine for more realistic training.

 

Throughout the years the Cook Colliery, German Creek Central and Southern, and most recently Crinum South, have been touted as possible sites, but according to Lennon Training manager John Lennon, it has all been a “bit of a pipedream”

 

“People for over a decade have spoken about having an underground mine as a training facility but to keep a mine open, even a training mine, you need a health and safety management system, statutory people to do inspections, inspection on your fans and your other pieces of equipment,” Lennon told International Longwall News.

 

“It is a very expensive option to keep open a mine, even if it is only a few hundred metres. So we decided we were going to recreate a mine roadway in a shed.”

 

The company used experienced mine workers to set the roadway up, which included mesh and bolts on the roof and a proper bolting pattern, ventilation tubes and fan to create a ventilation circuit, a wall set up for shot firing, plus cabling, pipes services, brattice, and more.

 

Lennon Training has the ability to “smoke up” the gallery to simulate an underground fire to train people on donning a rescuer and completing a changeover in a realistic, but safe, environment.

 

Usually this training is carried out in a rescue room or a crib room on the surface.

 

“Our primary aim was to give both new starters and experienced miners more underground realistic training.

 

“For new starters it is to introduce them to a roadway so when they do go underground they say, wow, it is just like in my training and not just a photo.

 

“For the experienced mine workers who are coming back for their refresher training, they can go into a real place and go, ‘gee, this is just like my panel’. Then, ‘damn there’s smoke and I have to don a rescuer – I can’t see, how am I am going and what am I doing’

 

“By making it more realistic we improve the chances of these people getting out should an incident ever occur.

 

“For those new to the industry, it reduces the risk that they’ll be involved in an incident because of unfamiliarity with the workplace.”

 

So far the company has done some training in the facility, including first aid rescue. The facility will become part of Lennon’s scheduled courses next week.

 

“We’ve had some key industry people go through this shed so far and they have all said this is by far industry best practice. There’s nothing like this in Queensland,” Lennon said.

 

“Here they can touch the roof, the cables…we can actually have people doing physical tasks. It’s a very hands-on experience.”

 

While Lennon Training as a private company has made a substantial investment in the facility, Lennon said BMA Crinum was extremely helpful in the set-up providing mining-specific props.

 

The company also received plenty of support from local businesses that supplied items like safety gear and stoppings.

 

Lennon Training will be holding an open day at the facility this Friday and an invitation-only day on Saturday.

 

Since its inception in 1991, Lennon Training has conducted generic core and underground elective induction training, mine specific risk training, gas monitoring certification, underground coal management course (pre-requisite for deputy training), and site-specific inductions, including rescue changeover and CABA self-escape.

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