Fire delivers further setbacks for Hunter mine

Following the affects of the floods in Queensland, mining giant Xstrata has faced another setback with an underground fire at its Hunter Valley coal mine continuing to burn.

Following the affects of the floods in Queensland, mining giant Xstrata has faced another setback with an underground fire at its  Hunter Valley coal mine continuing to burn.

The Blakefield South underground mine near Broke was evacuated after the fire broke out on Wednesday night  , with 55 miners brought safely to the surface.

All workers, including casual workers at the mine, have been stood down with pay while efforts are made to extinguish the blaze.

Xstrata spokesman, James Rickards said miners will not be sent back down until they are sure it is safe.

“We are still trying to assess the full extent of the incident,” he said.

“The priority is that no one’s underground, no one’s injured and we’ve been able to shut the operation down and now we’re focused on removing fire that fire from the situation.”

The mine only began production at the end of last year as an extension of the Beltana operation, and while a cause for the fire has not been established, Xstrata said spontaneous combustion is one possibility and gas levels are currently being monitored

Toxic gases are also being observed using a mobile laboratory set up by New South Wales Industry and Investment.

"We commenced the introduction of inert nitrogen into the affected area midnight last night to try to starve the fire of oxygen," he said.

"Now we’ve implemented gas monitoring and any decisions regarding re-entry to that underground environment or how long it may take to extinguish the fire will be based on that gas monitoring."

This fire comes after another blaze damaged a key piece of mining equipment at a Rio Tino Pilbara site, costing at least $3 million last week.

It is believed one person received minor injuries during the incident.

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