Much to do on mine stability

Latrobe Valley’s open cut mines continue to operate amid “significant” knowledge gaps surrounding mine stability management, an expert review panel has found.

While noting “improved” attitudes towards structural stability within the sector, the Technical Review Boards’ Annual Report 2012-13 expressed a “strong view” designs for critical mine infrastructure be subjected to robust, independent, third-party review.

“The TRB remains of the opinion that the original measures proposed for the rehabilitation of the Latrobe Valley mines fall well short of what could reasonably be considered as adequate for achieving long term safe and stable batters from a ground control perspective,” the report stated.

The TRB’s 2011/12 report delivered a scathing assessment of the sector, identifying at least three trouble spots in the state’s brown coal network that were still “at risk” of failure.

A spokesperson for Minister for Energy and Resources Russell Northe said mine stability was an important and complex matter.

“We are working with industry and experts to address this issue. The 2013/14 budget allocated $4.2 million for work to focus on key mine stability risks at major coal mines in the Latrobe Valley,” the spokesperson said.

“While the TRB report annually to government, the board was set up as a body to work with industry and this work is ongoing. Issues identified are mitigated as they arise and monitored closely by the TRB, industry and government.”

However, Environment Victoria has a different take on the report, which it said highlighted the government’s “fundamental and continuing failure” to act decisively to protect the coal communities and the environment from inadequately rehabilitated coal mines.

“The TRB reports show that the government can’t manage the mines they already have, let alone deal with new mines that are being proposed,” EV safe climate campaign manager Nicholas Aberle said.

The TRB ‘s findings came after a report detailing the state’s emergency risks found there was close to a 100 per cent annual likelihood of a “medium impact” emergency scenario in Latrobe Valley coal mines, while there was a one per cent likelihood of an “extreme impact” scenario.

While requests for clarification on what constituted ‘medium’ and ‘extreme’ risk events by The Express were not answered, the report identified consequences of a “major mine batter failure” such as multiple miner fatalities, essential service disruptions, loss of a major highway or complete loss of mine.