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Queensland Government: Mines need to prepare for storm season

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article image The 2010-11 wet season significantly impacted the economy, so mine operators are urged to prepare for this year
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Queensland mines are being advised to prepare for the imminent wet season after previous years have brought severe weather conditions. The 2010-2011 storm season demonstrated how not being prepared can put lives at risk and disturb mine operations for months afterwards.

In a statement last Wednesday Andrew Cripps, Queensland Minister for Natural Resources and Mines said mining operations need to have site contingency plans in place to enable them to respond safely and efficiently to any weather events that may arise.

"We saw the devastation caused during the 2010-11 wet season when floodwaters inundated many Queensland mines and brought the coal industry to a virtual standstill," Cripps said.

What are the potential dangers?
Severe weather conditions included high-velocity destructive winds, intense thunderstorms, heavy rain and hail and flash flooding. These conditions can damage surface structures and harm people in both open and enclosed spaces. People close by charged blast holes may be exposed to explosive detonation from lighting strikes.

Underground mine operators may be at risk of sudden inundation from flash flooding, and lighting strikes may disrupt critical electrical supply to winder, ventilation, computer-based control and communication systems as well as transfer electrical energy to underground workings.

How to prepare?
By law, the site senior executive (SSE) is required to conduct a risk assessment to identify potential emergency situations caused by severe weather. The SSE must identify, determine and communicate places of safety.

The SSE must ensure adequate that resources, facilities and procedure are available while maintaining an effective management program before, during and after a storm.

The SSE risk assessment must:
  • ensure warning and evacuation systems work
  • ensure structures are sound
  • have an emergency response and rescue system; and
  • ensure clear communication systems and mutual assistance protocols.
Even though the storm may have passed, the potential dangers and hazards may still remain. Always make a risk assessment, even after the storm, before returning to normal operations.

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines has issued a storm checklist to all industry operators to assist wet season planning.

"Queensland laws require all mining resource operations to have appropriate site safety and health management plans in place. They must have adequate resources, facilities and procedures in place to maintain effective management before, during and after a severe weather event," Cripps said.

Miners need to have adequate emergency response and rescue plans Cripps added.

"They must also identify any potential hazards on site and secure machinery, equipment and infrastructure and make it safe prior to a severe weather event," he said.

In 2011 Australian Mining reported three quarters of Queensland’s coal mines were flooded.

At the time Queensland Resources Council chief Michael Roche said "I flew over the mines recently and there was activity, but still pit after pit was filled with water."

The flooding impacted the economy significantly; according to Roche in February 2011 the state exported eight million tonnes of coal compared to 12 million tonnes in February 2010.

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