Mine operator monitors train track stability

Concerns surrounding the V/Line Gippsland track’s proximity to massive flooding in the Yallourn open cut mine have been addressed by mine operator TRUenergy.

This comes after arguments for a Royal Commission into the Morwell River’s collapse into the Yallourn mine were made on the basis of the mine’s proximity to the rail line.

In calling for the inquiry, Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan referred to a 2008 State Mining Warden’s report, which referred “repeatedly” to the risk posed by the proximity of local coal mines to nearby infrastructure, including the Princes Highway.

Senator Madigan went on to note the V/Line rail line was closer to Yallourn than the Princes Freeway was to Hazelwood’s open cut mine, movements in which caused cracks to appear in the freeway last year, shutting it down for more than six months.

“What risks must materialise before a Royal Commission is established? Would a regional rail-line or national highway falling into a Valley mine be enough?” Senator Madigan said in his speech to the senate on 26 June.

TRUenergy director of operations and construction Michael Hutchinson said with the unprecedented weight of water mass on mine batter walls, it was “prudent” to step up monitoring for any land movements on the southern mine wall, underneath the rail line.

“The levels of water put into the (West Field mine) are manageable in terms of stability, and monitoring has not indicated any critical issues at the moment,” Mr Hutchinson said.

“After coming out of 10 years of drought, some of the drainage the SECV had put in years ago hadn’t been maintained, and when we started to see those rains come in two or three years ago, we saw those batters moving a bit,” he said, adding extensive drainage had since been implemented.

“From that experience two or three years ago, we have a good handling of the impact of excess water on those batters … we are keeping an eye on drainage parts today which all seems to be operating reasonably well.”

He said the V/Line track at its nearest point ran within 120 metres of the mine’s southern wall; however, he said the water within the mine sat a further 100 metres into the mine, beyond stepped elevations in the batter wall.

V/Line spokesperson James Kelly said it had “absolutely no concerns” in relation to mine flooding affecting track stability, adding if there were such concerns, trains would not continue running.