The data from the Friday-released Queensland Mines and Quarries Safety Performance and Health Report 2012-13 revealed that underground coal safety was improving on most measures.
A key exception for the underground coal sector was the 7.5% increase in HPIs with 428 clocked up in the recent year compared to 398 in the previous year.
The other was the sector’s permanent incapacity injury toll, with these typically comprising of disabling back injuries and amputated fingers, which more than doubled to 7 in the recent year.
Out of the UG coal-related HPIs, the most significant was the sponcom event which occurred at Vale’s Carborough Downs longwall mine in the Bowen Basin.
The Mines Inspectorate was informed about it on May 25, 2012, with the detected elevated levels of carbon monoxide in a longwall area believed to have been associated with self-heating of the coal seam.
The inspectorate ordered the suspension of the mine four days later with this lifted on July 4, making this incident just fit into the 2012-13 year of safety events.
Perhaps a more frightening HPI was the discovery of a plastic bag over a methane sensor head on a mobile mining vehicle at an undisclosed Queensland underground coal mine.
The use of plastic bags to stop methane sensors from triggering methane alerts happened at the Pike River coal mine in New Zealand before the gas explosions of that mine disaster three years ago which claimed 29 lives.
This was part of the evidence which came out from the Royal Commission into the disaster with this practice symbolic of the mine’s troubled safety culture this inquiry delved into.
Another worrying HPI involved a deputy, or explosive risk zone controller, that continued to operate a drift runner when his personal and on-vehicle monitors were making alarms due to the atmosphere hosting more than 1% methane.
The deputy was charged and is before the court.