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Anglo American has revealed plans for a new Met Coal Analytics Centre to help drive safety and transform its underground operations as it works towards the Grosvenor mine restart in 2021.

The centre, to be based in Anglo American’s Brisbane office, will bring together operational, engineering and data science experts to look at major challenges and opportunities in its mines.

The first priority will be in underground operations gas and ventilation management, according to metallurgical coal business chief executive officer Tyler Mitchelson.

It follows a gas blast at the Grosvenor underground mine near Moranbah on May 6 that seriously injured five men.

That incident sparked a Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry, which held its first round of public hearings in August and will sit again in the Brisbane Magistrates Court from September 15. 

Mr Mitchelson said the company was continuing to prioritise safety in its planning processes for reopening Grosvenor mine in the second half of 2021.

At the same time it was undertaking broader work across the business to expedite safety-enhancing technical, engineering and data science solutions, he said.

“As the largest underground miner in Australia, we are uniquely positioned to leverage our own data and technology to transform the way we analyse data to drive safer operations, better decisions and achieve mining excellence,” he said.

He said Anglo would immediately commence a global scan of data science and technical options to improve predictive modelling in gas and ventilation management, as well as improvements in gas drainage.

“While investigations are still underway, we are continuing to improve controls across our mines, as information becomes available,” he said.

“This work includes industry-leading work on piloting the use of pressure sensors to cut power to the longwall, and the bolstering of our plans for remote operation in our underground mines.

“Our target is to be fully remote capable this year, and we have made strong progress with the technology we have in place at our Moranbah North mine in recent weeks.

“Removing people from potential harm is the best way to improve safety in underground mining.”

Anglo says it has begun a series of workforce briefings at its Queensland operations to further update crews on plans to improve safety and controls ahead of recommencing longwall mining at Grosvenor mine.

Mr Mitchelson said the company was continuing to work through a detailed technical road map to safely restart longwall mining at Grosvenor in the second half of next year.

“The next step for us will be to safely re-enter the mine, to enable the completion of permanent seals and re-establishing mine integrity,” he said.

“Safety comes first, and we’re taking the time to ensure mining does not restart until we know it’s safe to do so.

“We will ensure that relevant learnings, including from the investigations and the inquiry which are underway, are captured and actioned within our business.

“We are implementing an enhanced Learning from Incidents process to our workforce, that will ensure relevant learning opportunities from all incidents are automatically distributed across our mine sites and accessible to our workforce.

“Recognising the importance of safety in bonus structures, we have further announced a review of the existing structures at our sites with input from our workforce, to look at how we can focus on leading indicators, in line with Anglo American’s global Elimination of Fatalities program.”

Mr Mitchelson said the company was continuing to support those injured in the May 6 incident and the first responders from Grosvenor mine.