QLD resurrects refuge chamber debate

MINING DAILY can reveal that Queensland Mines and Energy (QME) will resurrect a series of safety workgroups to discuss the potential benefits of refuge chamber guidelines for Queensland coal mines.

MINING DAILY can reveal that Queensland Mines and Energy (QME) will resurrect a series of safety workgroups to discuss the potential benefits of refuge chamber guidelines for Queensland coal mines.

There are currently no guidelines for the use of underground refuge chambers in Queensland’s coal industry.

Chief Inspector of Coal Mines Gavin Taylor told MINING DAILY that three separate working groups will be brought together to examine different aspects of this issue.

“Whether we come with some guidelines thereafter would be determined by that tripartite group,” Taylor said.

“Operators, inspectors, and mine workers are involved in these working groups.”

The coal industry is divided over the use of refuge chambers in coal mines.

According to Taylor, some operators think the chambers should not be used to barricade workers within the mine during an incident.

“There are a number of mines in Queensland that have refuge chambers, but the majority of the mines will actually use them as changeover bases, where they provide a secure, non-toxic environment for when people change from one self-contained breathing apparatus to another,” Taylor said.

“Some people believe that workers would use the chambers in an incorrect manner, and barricade themselves within the refuge chamber when the best option would be self escape.”

The working groups were initially implemented by the incumbent Chief Inspector of Coal Mines, Brian Lyne, under the ‘fight or flight’ working title.

Deputy Chief Inspector of Coal Mines Doug White will now head the working groups.

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