‘Lingering questions’ remain

The terms of reference for a reopened Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, tasked to probe concerns of a spike in deaths during last year’s fire, are set to be announced later in May.

In addition to exploring “lingering questions” about increased mortality rates during the ordeal, Premier Daniel Andrews said a reopened inquiry would also focus on future proofing the sector from similar events.

Mr Andrews said Justice Bernard Teague, who chaired the original mine fire inquiry, had shown a “willingness” to serve as the recalled inquiry’s returned chairman.

“We are pleased he’s shown such an eagerness to continue the work that he started,” Mr Andrews said.

“We need to make sure all the open cuts across Gippsland and the Latrobe Valley, as well as the Angelsea open cut mine, we want Justice Teague to look in detail at how we remediate those mines at the end of their life and during their life, to make sure they are as safe as possible,” he said.

“It is not just about Hazelwood, it is learning from Hazelwood and going beyond that.

“There are inherent risks particularly in relation to fire through the open cut coal mines.”

A period of calling for formal submissions will begin once the terms of reference are announced.

Environment Victoria’s Dr Nicholas Aberle said it was a welcome announcement to finally see money committed to implementing the original inquiry’s recommendations, alongside an increased focus on mine rehabilitation in a new inquiry.

“It’s great they’ve expanded the scope to include all coal mines. Obviously it was a catastrophic fire at Hazelwood but as far as we can tell there is nothing to stop similar things happening at other mines,” Dr Aberle said.