MINERS have been cleared to resume underground work at South32’s Appin mine after a seven-week shutdown ordered by regulators because of gas and ventilation problems.
But production will only be allowed to resume on a limited sector of the mine – one longwall and three development units – once remedial actions approved by the Resources Regulator have been performed.
The news will come as a relief to the hundreds of workers whose livelihood relies on the mine. Most have been kept on-site doing training and above-ground work during the shutdowns.
The Regulator issued prohibition notices on the mine on June 28 after ongoing safety issues related to gas buildup in the mine and ventilation problems.
Since then there has been an “extensive compliance review of the mining operations”, the Regulator said, with South 32 submitting a detailed restart plan.
Chief compliance officer Anthony Keon said the Resources Regulator had worked extensively with South32 to “return the site to compliance”.
“The Resources Regulator issued the prohibition notices following serious concerns about safety at the site,” Mr Keon said.
“We’ve worked closely with the mine operator and we’re now comfortable that the mine has put systems and controls in place to deal with the immediate safety issues and has a robust plan to address longer-term issues.
“Of course, we will continue to monitor the site to ensure any issues are resolved quickly and within the scope of their mining licence.
“Mine safety is the paramount concern of the Resources Regulator and we will never shy away from taking strong action when we identify issues that can affect the safety of workers, the wider community and the environment.”
The Regulator has now issued a new notice containing several immediate actions being undertaken by the miner, after which it can resume extraction.
A South32 spokeswoman said: “Our initial review into Illawarra Metallurgical Coal’s operating systems and practices is nearing completion. We are currently working towards a staged and controlled ramp-up of operations.”
But production will be limited to one longwall and a maximum three development units until further works are completed in relation the to the reliability of the gas drainage, ventilation and electrical systems.
It has been an uncertain few months for the Appin workers. As well as the gas-related shutdowns, contract company Delta went into administration, with 200 workers in limbo. About 130 of them were picked up by contract firm Mastermyne.