A former Queensland mines inspector has backed Lock the Gate Alliance (LTG) warnings about the threat of fires at coal mines.
Jim Leggate worked for the Queensland state government as a senior coal mines rehabilitation inspector from 1986 and was chairman of the state’s Chamber of Mines environment committee.
Mr Leggate today backed concerns by the LTG’s national president, Drew Hutton about the risk of coal fires around Ipswich and other mining centres in Australia.
“Drew Hutton is quite correct to draw attention to the risk of coal fires around any mining in the Ipswich area,” he said. “In Queensland the regulation of the rehabilitation requirements on coal mines has failed spectacularly.
“There have been coal fires burning around Ipswich, on old disused coal mines, for decades. They give off an evil smell that has continually been a nuisance, if not a health risk, to nearby residents. The coal residues left on the surface after mining should have been properly rehabilitated by selective handling and burial but there was very little rehabilitation undertaken around Ipswich coal mines.”
Mr Leggate said there was a coal fire on a disused coal mine within 10 minutes drive of his Goodna home where there was uncontrolled public access.
“It represented a very dangerous hazard to children who could easily walk unsuspectingly across firm ground only to fall into a burning inferno, beneath a thin surface crust,” he said.
“The mines department never treated this with any concern. I encountered similar fires at BHP mines in Central Queensland on poorly rehabilitated areas.
“With increasing incidence of high fire hazard days around our coal fields in Australia and with fire embers flying great distances, any coal residues left unrehabilitated on the surface will be at risk of combustion, including the massive dumps/stockpiles of uneconomic coal at the big open cut mines.
“It is not true that there is monitoring of these areas by safety authorities. There are thousands of hectares of open cut coal mine hazards still to be rehabilitated in Queensland and the government should provide an independent audit of the progress being made, particularly on those mines like Gregory Mine (in Central Queensland) that are about to close.
Mr Hutton said there were hundreds of thousands of hectares of unrehabilitated mine sites around Queensland that were at risk of igniting.
“There have been plenty of black coal fires around the world, it’s not only brown coal mines that ignite,” he said. “The Queensland government is showing gross irresponsibility by not demanding mining companies rehabilitate mines as they close.”
View Mr Hutton’s original media release here
Drew Hutton, National President Lock the Gate Alliance ph: 0428487110
Jim Leggate, Former mines inspector Ph: (03) 6352 3672
Media- Kate Dennehy, Qld Campaign Coordinator LTG ph: 0419 432 624