Austar coal mine to shut down
Yancoal has announced more than 200 employees are to be stood down or re-deployed after shutting down the Austar-run mine in Hunter Valley.
The mine at Paxton, west of Cessnock, is one of the state’s oldest coal mines, celebrating 100 years in 2016.
It is the same underground mine where two men, Philip Grant, 35, of Metford and 49-year-old Jamie Mitchell of Aberdare, were killed in 2014.
They were working with five others about 500 metres below the surface and 10 kilometres from the mine’s entry point when a wall collapsed.
The Resources Regulator has prohibited all underground longwall production activities at the operation, which is managed by Yancoal on behalf of the Watagan Mining Company.
According to the ABC, the operation’s shutdown comes after two prohibition notices were issued by the regulator following significant coal burst events.
Coal bursts involve the sudden, violent ejection of coal into the mine and typically happen without warning.
The first notice came on February 2, 2018, when, according to the Resources Regulator, approximately 50 tonnes of coal was ejected from the face of the mine.
One worker was taken to hospital and treated for a cut to his hand.
The Resources Regulator issued a Section 195 notice to the mine, which prohibits cutting coal at the affected longwall.
The second notice came on May 17, 2018, after another significant coal burst event.
While no workers were injured, the coal burst reportedly caused significant damage to equipment.
An estimated 60 tonnes of coal were ejected from the longwall face, approximately two tonnes landing in the walkway.
The mine recently gained permission to undertake controlled cutting under strict conditions to test additional ways to mitigate a coal burst risk, which included maintaining a 50-metre exclusion zone for workers.
The Resources Regulator said the notice would remain in place until a detailed geotechnical assessment was carried out and the mine operator could satisfy it that comprehensive risk controls could be implemented to protect workers.