Five miners have suffered horrific burns in a gas blast at an underground coal mine in central Queensland.
Anglo American’s Grosvenor Coal Mine at Moranbah will remain closed to inspectors until gas levels stabilise.
Chief Inspector of Coal Mines Peter Newman said the company “informed us that there had been an ignition of gas on the long wall face”.
“That is the extent of the information to date,” he told ABC radio today.
“The mine will remain shut until such time as it’s safe for persons to re-enter the mine to undertake the investigation.”
He revealed mine inspectors had communications with the mine last month.
Asked if any safety issues were identified, he said: “Whenever you bring a fresh pair of eyes to an operation there are always recommendations … or directives.”
He said mine operators were working to make the site safe.
“They are monitoring the gas environment underground,” Mr Newman said.
“Until such time as the monitoring and analysis of those gas readings determine there is a safe environment for people to return underground, it’s premature for me to speculate about what the nature and cause of this was.”
All five miners – three in their 40s and two in their 50s – suffered extensive burns in Wednesday afternoon’s blast. Four are in critical condition, the fifth serious but stable.
They were flown to Brisbane overnight in a complex medical evacuation involving five planes.
Doug Buchanan from the Queensland Ambulance Service said teams of nurses and doctors worked on the men as they were flown from the Moranbah Hospital to Brisbane.
Four needed ventilation due to the damage to their airways.
The five miners are now receiving specialist care in the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital.
Union boss Stephen Smyth, from the CFMEU, said the blast could have killed everyone who was working underground at the time.
“It could have been a worst-case scenario, where you lose everybody that’s working in that mine,” he told the ABC.
“And that’s not overplaying it. We’ve only got to throw our minds back to Pike River in New Zealand, and Moura in ‘94.
“When you get it wrong – and the conditions are right – it’s catastrophic.”
Anglo American has evacuated the worksite, and all other employees have been accounted for.
Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said two mine inspectors had already been on site, with two more to arrive on Thursday.