North Goonyella installs refuge

PEABODY Coal has become the latest underground coal miner in Australia to install a long-term entrapment refuge, after purchasing a 14-person CoalSAFE unit from MineARC Systems in August.
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MineARC's refuge has been installed at North Goonyella.

Lou Caruana

The refuge installed at Peabody's North Goonyella coal mine in Queensland is intrinsically safe (non-electrically powered), can be transported virtually anywhere underground, and can provide safe refuge for up to 14 people for 36 hours in the event of an emergency.

"We're very pleased that Peabody has decided to incorporate refuge into its emergency response plans at North Goonyella Mine," MineARC general manager Mike Lincoln said.

"While we have been operating here in Australia for over 10 years, we have been manufacturing hundreds of units for internationally-based coal mines. We are confident that this first sale to an Australian-based coal mine will highlight the benefits of refuge and bring a renewed focus to this safety initiative."

Currently, Australia does not have legislation in place governing the provision of underground refuge in its coal mines, unlike other major producers such as the United States and China, where refuge is now mandatory.

Legislation in the US was introduced after the Sago coal mine disaster in West Virginia, after a blast and subsequent rock fall trapped 13 miners, all of whom died waiting to be rescued.

A guideline was introduced into the Australian hard-rock industry in 2005, with the Department of Mines’ “Refuge Alternatives for Underground Metalliferous Mines” providing a firm benchmark for mines to adhere to.

However, the attitude in Australian coal circles has previously not supported refuges.

Refuge proponents have long argued the case for refuge as a last resort when escape is no longer safe or even possible – such as in cases where rock falls, toxic gas or fires and smoke block the escape route.

A situation demonstrating the need for refuge occurred recently in Chile where 33 miners were found alive in a refuge after weeks underground.