Mine proximity questioned

Latrobe City Council has questioned the proximity of the Hazelwood open-cut mine to the Morwell township in its draft submission to the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry.

About 15 people attended a special meeting held at council’s offices on Thursday night to hear the local government’s assessment of its role in the mine fire incident, and its recommendation to the Board of Inquiry.

The submission also focused on the future of brown coal development in the area.

Councillor Peter Gibbons opposed the recommendation on the basis of more debate.

He said the report should focus on short term issues such as management; medium term issues including the future of extracted coal in the Valley; and the long term issues of how council and government should manage the liveability of Morwell south of Commercial Road.

“If we continue mining without remediation, as we’ve discovered in this event… what is the liveability for our citizens in that part of Morwell?” Cr Gibbons said.

In its draft submission, council detailed its concerns regarding short, medium and long-term remediation plans in place for all brown coal mines in the region.

“Morwell in particular is immediately adjacent to both the Hazelwood open cut and the Yallourn open cut and is concerned about the effect these activities are taking on the town itself,” the submission read.

“Council is very interested and keen to be involved in the future discussion regarding the remediation and coal planning with both the Victorian Government and the respective mine operators to ensure it is well informed when planning the future of the municipality, especially in terms of fire prevention.

“To date, the council is not generally a part of these discussions.”

Morwell resident Howard Williams said the submission was an opportunity for council to include other risks associated with brown coal mines.

“Noise and dust could be included when we talk about mitigation of risks from coal mines,” Mr Williams said.

“While this is an inquiry into the fire, council has an obligation to look after the interests of the community and indicating those risks, which are very real.

“If they had been addressed prior to the first stage, quite rightly the fire may not have started.”

The submission also acknowledged council and the community were unclear about the role of local government in the response phase during the mine fire.

Latrobe City acting chief executive John Mitchell said the submission aimed to illustrate how difficult this role was during the incident in the face of mixed messages from multiple agencies.

“The draft submission is also an opportunity to remind our community that (while) Latrobe City Council plays an important role in emergency management, fire response and recovery, but in fact that it is the State Government who leads and controls the event overall,” Mr Mitchell said.

The council has called a second special council meeting, open to the public tonight from 6.30, before the Hazelwood Brown Coal Submission deadline, which officially closes today. The council has been granted an extension for their submission until 10am Tuesday.