QUEENSLAND Minister for Mines and Energy Geoff Wilson has paid a flying visit to Ensham coal mine to see first hand the recovery efforts being undertaken by Ensham following inundation of parts of the mine by floodwaters from the Nogoa River.
Wilson was accompanied by Director General of the Department of Mines and Energy Dan Hunt.
The group was flown into the mine from Emerald by helicopter and escorted around the extensive mining operation by Ensham CEO John Pegler and General Manager Operations Peter Westerhuis.
While recovery efforts are well underway, operations were hampered again this week by more heavy rain over the weekend which has further submerged parts of internal haul roads and the mine access road which was extensively damaged in last month’s flooding.
Ensham was hardest hit of Central Queensland coal mines, many of which experienced flooding into pits from cloudbursts and local runoff.
Ensham was severely flooded when unprecedented flood flows into the Nogoa River broke through levee banks, causing the complete inundation of two of the mine’s six coal pits and of one of its four draglines which remains stranded in about 15 metres of floodwater.
Ensham CEO John Pegler said Ensham was working closely with Government authorities such as the EPA to facilitate the rapid return of the trapped river water to the Nogoa River.
The Nogoa River at Emerald was still experiencing flood flows from continued local rain and flood releases from Fairbairn Dam as storms continued to gather this week.
All going well, Pegler said Ensham was hopeful of resuming about 70% of normal production within weeks and hopes to have the remaining pits accessible by the end of the year.
Already Ensham’s workforce and most of its contractors have returned to work to assist in the flood recovery and to continue coal mining operations in other parts of the mine.
Pegler said the flooded pits were among the most important at Ensham and contained high quality energy coal which is now in critically short supply because of flooding of other Queensland mines.
“As you can appreciate, it is vital we get the river water out of these coal pits so we can recover the flooded dragline and recommence normal mining operations and coal exports as quickly as possible.
“We very much welcome Wilson’s timely visit and all the support his Government can give in facilitating the speediest possible processes to get this river water back in the river in the interests of all concerned.”
Pegler said the mine would be gradually de-watered in three stages using a combination of natural drainage, ‘high flow’ and ‘high head’ pumps over a period of many months.