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A Grosvenor mine team has commenced a re-entry process to the underground workings at the Moranbah district longwall operation, almost a year after the explosion that left five men seriously injured.

The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry that is tasked with investigating that May 6, 2020 incident and a string of other methane exceedances at underground coal mines is due to provide a report to Resources Minister Scott Stewart at the end of next month after a recent round of public hearings.

Chief executive officer of Anglo American’s metallurgical coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, said the re-entry – which follows approval from Resources Safety & Health Queensland (RSHQ) – was a positive step towards the safe restart of mining at Grosvenor.

“Following a substantive program of work that included permanently sealing the impacted area of the mine with five large, concrete seals and installing additional gas monitoring infrastructure, we completed a highly rigorous risk assessment process ahead of re-entry, drawing on both internal and external experts,” he said.

“We are taking a staged approach to re-entry, with the team initially completing safety and compliance inspections, and restoring power and gas monitoring to ensure the safety and integrity of the mine.

“I would like to acknowledge the very thorough and detailed approach taken by RSHQ in working with us over the past few months to ensure the permanent sealing process and our risk assessment for mine re-entry reflects leading industry practice.

“We are continuing to capture and action relevant learnings as they become available, including through the Board of Inquiry.

“Last year we started a significant body of safety improvement work, with an emphasis on expediting technology solutions including remote operations**, and these solutions will be embedded at Grosvenor prior to restarting longwall mining in the second half of this year.”

RSHQ said the staged re-entry was anticipated to continue over the weekend and into next week, with five RSHQ inspectors involved.

It said a directive, issued by the inspectorate, prevented the commencement of production activities until the mine was able to further demonstrate that its safety and health management system provided suitable controls to prevent a reoccurrence of the kind of incident that occurred in May last year.

Anglo American said it had continued to support the Grosvenor workforce since longwall mining activities halted in May 2020, following the incident underground.

“The safety of our workforce is our priority and we are continuing to engage closely with them and support all of our colleagues who were impacted by the incident last year,” Mr Mitchelson said.