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Anglo American will permanently seal the section of longwall panel at the Grosvenor coal mine where a blast in May injured five men and does not expect to restart the Bowen Basin site’s production until the second half of 2021.

The move to seal off the area will result in a $75 million write-down relating to the lost equipment, according to the company’s half-year financial report.

Chief executive officer of Anglo American’s metallurgical coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said safety was the priority and the company was taking the time to ensure the safe restart of operations at Grosvenor, assessing all technology options.

“We have made the decision to permanently seal the part of the longwall panel where the methane ignition incident occurred in May,” he said.

“Permanent sealing provides the greatest level of safety, and will help facilitate works to prepare Grosvenor mine for a safe restart of operations, which is likely to be in the second half of 2021.”

He said the company had installed three temporary seals in the longwall area in the past two weeks.

This allowed it to isolate the area of the mine where heating occurred and stabilise the environment prior to permanent sealing work commencing.

“We are in the process of developing the detailed technical roadmap to safely restart mining next year, including a detailed risk assessment process involving internal and external experts,” he said.

Mr Mitchelson said new longwall equipment would be purchased.

This would give the company the opportunity to assess the best available technology to further expedite the ‘automation and technology journey’ at Grosvenor.

“As we communicated to our workforce including key contractors recently, we are continuing to review our controls to prevent a methane ignition occurring again,” he said.

“The pilot study to assess the use of pressure sensors to cut power to the longwall at Moranbah North is underway and we will be reviewing all technology options to improve our controls at Grosvenor.

“This work will continue as more information becomes available from investigations.

“We have continued to support our workforce since the methane ignition occurred 12 weeks ago.

“As we develop our technical roadmap to restarting longwall mining next year, we will work through the resourcing impacts and will be engaging further with our workforce over coming weeks.

“Surface activities will continue and underground development work will resume when it is safe to do so.”

He said mining operations at Grosvenor would restart with the benefit of learnings from internal investigations and the Board of Inquiry’s recommendations, and with additional safety measures in place.

“Our injured colleagues are continuing their medical treatment on the road to recovery and we continue to offer support to our colleagues and their families,” Mr Mitchelson said.