NSW Resources Regulator lifts prohibition notices at troubled Paxton mine

Troubled: A section of the Austar underground coking coal mine after a fatal incident in 2014.
Troubled: A section of the Austar underground coking coal mine after a fatal incident in 2014.

YANCOAL will recommence production at its Austar underground coal mine near Paxton after the NSW Resources Regulator lifted all prohibition notices following troubling coal burst incidents and the deaths of two miners in 2014.

Yancoal advised the Australian Stock Exchange today that employees redeployed to other Yancoal-owned underground operations had been recalled to recommence production.

The Resources Regulator last week lifted a prohibition notice to allow limited longwall activities under controlled conditions. In a statement to the ASX Yancoal said it was advised on Friday that all prohibition notices over the site were lifted.

The Resources Regulator imposed prohibition notices after a succession of coal burst incidents at the mine in February, March and May. In February a mine employee was treated in hospital for a hand injury after 50 tonnes of coal exploded from a longwall.

The regulator prohibited cutting at the longwall after a second coal burst incident on March 16. On May 18 the regulator prohibited all longwall mining after a significant coal burst event the previous day where 60 tonnes of material exploded from a longwall face at least 400 metres underground. No mine workers were injured.

Yancoal was advised on May 18 that the prohibition order would remain in place until a detailed geotechnical assessment was completed and the Resources Regulator was satisfied workers would be protected from further coal bursts.

Resources Regulator deputy secretary Lee Shearer in May requested confirmation from Yancoal that “key duty holders” were “fully aware of the circumstances at the mine and the steps taken to eliminate or mitigate the identified risks”. In the letter Ms Shearer expressed concern that mine workers remained potentially exposed to risk and sought confirmation that a “rigorous engineering-based evaluation” supported Yancoal’s application that prohibition notices be cancelled and work allowed to resume at the mine.

In 2014 Austar mine workers James Mitchell, 49, and Philip Grant, 35, were killed in an incident more than 500 metres underground.

Austar employs 205 people. In 2017 the mine produced 2 million tonnes of coking coal..