Fires hurt coal

COAL mines and mobile equipment accounted for the vast majority of 228 fires on Queensland minesites over the past year, prompting calls for the industry to tighten safety regulations.
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Vivienne Ryan

A Queensland Mines Inspectorate report into mine fires from August 1, 2007 to July 31, 2008 found 84% of fires took place in coal operations.

As required by law miners must report “high potential incidents” to the Department of Mines and Energy. Reported data found over 200 fires had the potential to harm a person and the inspectorate said it was “critical” the industry took steps to reduce the number of fires.

The data recorded the number of fires on a vehicle or plant and the number that endangered the safety of a person.

When the data was broken down by regions in Queensland it was found that Mackay had 93 fires (41%), Rockhampton had 86 (38%), the southern region had 12 fires (5%) and the northern region 37 fires (16%).

The same data was split four ways into:

  • Coal mining;
  • Non-coal mining;
  • Those specifically on mining equipment; and
  • General fires including material handling, coal preparation plants and welding.

Fires on mobile equipment (135) in coal mines accounted for 60% of the total fires, which was followed by general fires in coal mines (55) accounting for 24%.

Non-coal fires on mobile equipment and general fires accounted for 16%.

It was clear that coal fires outweighed non-coal fires, said the Queensland Mines Inspectorate.

Of the 161 fires which occurred on mobile equipment, 92 started in the engine bay.

A majority of mobile equipment fires not in the engine bay were found to be electrical (40%), followed by wheel bearings and brakes (25%).

Twenty-eight electrical fires were found to have started from an alternator, jammed starter motor or overheated cables.

The Queensland Mines Inspectorate said improved levels of inspection and maintenance of mobile equipment would have removed the risks to most of the fires.

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