Follow disaster recovery guidelines: Cliff

BLAKEFIELD South in New South Wales and Pike River in New Zealand followed recovery guidelines developed by Queensland University’s Minerals Industry Safety and Health Centre to assess risk of re-entry but more work needs to be done in risk assessment, according to its director David Cliff.
Follow disaster recovery guidelines: Cliff Follow disaster recovery guidelines: Cliff Follow disaster recovery guidelines: Cliff Follow disaster recovery guidelines: Cliff Follow disaster recovery guidelines: Cliff

Mineshield and associated equipment at Blakefield South, image courtesy of NSW Mines Rescue.

Lou Caruana

Monitoring systems need to be updated to provide reliable real time information so decisions can be made on sound information in a timely manner rather than taking unnecessary risks, he told the Mine Rescue & Emergency Management conference in Brisbane.

“The guidelines were supplied to Blakefield South to assist with the recovery process and it was used at Pike River to assist with the recovery process there,” Cliff said.

“In both cases the guidelines gave a structure and answered the questions of ‘what do we do now?’

“For Blakefield South the best process was an objective process, which was as comprehensive as possible to cover the re-entry.

“So the guidelines have been adapted by the guys at Blakefield South.”

A fire struck the new Blakefield South longwall operation in early January, triggering the evacuation of around 50 workers.

There was an ignition incident at the suspended mine after a completed borehole reintroduced oxygen underground and the mine is still not operating.

Twenty-nine miners died at the Pike River disaster last year after a gas explosion.

Cliff, who has helped organise and operate level one emergency response training exercises, comes from a background in emergency preparedness, gas analysis, spontaneous combustion, fires and explosions, and has attended or provided assistance in more than 30 incidents at mines, including Pike River.

MISHC has developed the National Minerals Industry Safety and Health Risk Assessment Guideline, an on-line resource structured to help individuals design and undertake formal and informal risk assessments. The processes outlined in the guideline are outcome-based rather than prescriptive and there are extensive links to case studies and lessons learned.

Cliff said a balance needed to be struck when re-entering underground between a “shoot first and ask questions later” response favoured by the US rescuers at the Sago River mine disaster in West Virginia in 2006, where 12 trapped miners lost their lives, and between an overly bureaucratic decision making process.

“Too careful will take too long and be bogged down on risk assessments,” he said.

“Let’s create a structure and make a decision in a very short period of time.”

MSHC has also developed the Minerals Industry Risk Management Gateway (MIRMgate), a portal to a comprehensive library of information related to hazard and risk management in the mining, minerals processing and quarrying industries.

MIRMgate provides direct access to online resources sourced from Australian and global minerals industry bodies, including companies, industry associations and regulatory bodies.

Content of MIRMgate is carefully selected and scrutinised for its suitability for assistance with site risk assessment. Within MIRMgate there are several issue specific metadata systems – TYREgate, focusing on tyre related incidents, ISOLgate, focussing on incidents involving isolation practices and COMPLIANCEgate, an initiative funded by the National Mine Safety Framework to provide a central location for access to mining OHS legislation and supporting documentation.