Incidents stop work at Spring Creek

SOLID Energy yesterday stopped underground mining at its Spring Creek mine in New Zealand, in accordance with a prohibition notice issued by the NZ Department of Labour’s Mines Inspectorate because of three serious incidents at the mine.
Incidents stop work at Spring Creek Incidents stop work at Spring Creek Incidents stop work at Spring Creek Incidents stop work at Spring Creek Incidents stop work at Spring Creek

Spring Creek, image courtesy of Solid Energy.

Lou Caruana

Solid Energy chief operating officer Barry Bragg said the incidents occurred due to breakdowns in systems at the mine although “in each case there were multiple safety controls in place which proved effective’

Firstly, there was a failure of notification to staff and management when one of the two main ventilation fans at the mine went down.

The second incident came about when power was not cut to a piece of equipment when a development fan stopped working, and the third incident involved overheating of a surface compressor.

“The company views these incidents very seriously,” Bragg said. “They should not have happened.

“We recognise that expectations for underground mining have been raised substantially. Solid Energy fully supports this. We will work very closely with the department to ensure we meet our and their expectations prior to resuming mining at Spring Creek.”

Work to maintain the safety and security of the underground environment will continue.

The stoppage of underground work is not expected to affect the mine’s customers as the operation is currently in a development phase with limited coal output.

Spring Creek employs about 230 mineworkers, tradespeople and professional specialists, with about 40 people working underground at any given time.

Spring Creek is moving towards a strong development focus, with the construction of roadways and underground infrastructure providing access to 3 million tonnes of coal in the Rapahoe sector to the north.

Spring Creek, which produced 89,000t of coal in the December 2011 quarter, up 19% year-on-year, was now 100% owned by Solid Energy after shipping and marketing group Cargill exited its joint venture partnership with Spring Creek Mining, Bragg said.

Cargill entered the joint partnership with Solid Energy in March 2007 with a 47% stake in the mine and supported a development program that provided four years of production.