Anglo American Australia says it is committing another A$5 million ($3.8 million) towards improving safety at its underground coal mines in the country following the release of recommendations from the Board of Inquiry’s report into an incident that occurred at its Grosvenor mine in May 2020.
Tyler Mitchelson, CEO of Anglo American’s Metallurgical Coal business, said the company is already acting on the recommendations of the report, referencing A$60 million of investment in safety initiatives the company has carried out over the last year.
The latest A$5 million investment will fund underground mining research, in partnership with industry research and technology partners, to improve the industry’s knowledge in certain technical areas, Mitchelson said.
“We have been clear from the outset that the incident on 6 May, 2020, in which five of our colleagues were badly injured was unacceptable,” he said. “The safety of our workforce is always our first priority.”
In the last year, Anglo has put in place a range of measures to address issues that have come to light through detailed investigations and evidence before the Board of Inquiry. Over this period, it has already committed more than A$60 million in technology pilots, additional gas drainage infrastructure, expert reviews and further improvements to a range of processes and controls.
Mitchelson said: “Underground coal mining, particularly in the area where Grosvenor Mine is located, is complex with many interacting considerations and, as the board has identified, further research into certain technical areas such as gas and spontaneous combustion management would benefit the industry. We will be helping to advance knowledge in these areas through our further A$5 million funding commitment.
“The Board of Inquiry’s reports have made a number of recommendations, and we are confident we have already addressed, or will address, these ahead of the restart of longwall mining at Grosvenor Mine later this year.”
Longwall mining operations at Moranbah North Mine safely restarted earlier this month, in line with regulatory approvals, with production expected to ramp up over coming weeks.
Anglo American’s Operating Model, the company’s primary operational management system, is currently being updated at Grosvenor and, together with a range of other measures such as the use of data science, will ensure the company has the very latest in systems thinking, design and technology to ensure operational stability and control, and ultimately safe production, he added.
“The use of automation and remote operation presents us with the single biggest opportunity to remove people from high-risk areas and we are fast-tracking this work across our operations, including commissioning ground-breaking research into automation in development mining with CSIRO,” Mitchelson said.
This work will see the two companies undertake a world-first trial of technology to support automation in the roadway development phase of underground coal mining.
On top of this, Anglo American Australia has commenced a pilot study at Moranbah North to assess the use of pressure sensors to remove power from the longwall face. Initial laboratory testing has been successfully completed and pilot hardware has been installed at Moranbah North Mine, it said. Full-scale hardware and processing systems will be installed at Grosvenor ahead of a restart of operations.
“A further layer of quality control has already been introduced for the supply of Intrinsically Safe underground mining equipment,” the company said.
Anglo American Australia has also invested in data and strata capabilities to change the way it mines, with its newly-established Met Coal Analytics Centre already operationalising gas and strata management analytics to predictive capabilities, with work under way to support its mines.
The company already has gas management improvement measures underway, with A$1.5 billion allocated for gas management over five years across the company’s underground mines. It has also completed a project to increase gas drainage capacity at Grosvenor Mine and introduced enhanced gas management reporting across the business.
Last year, Anglo announced that, to support alignment with Queensland statutory reporting, any gas exceedances of above 2.5% in its underground mines will now be treated as Anglo American HPIs as a High Potential Incident in accordance with the company’s global risk management processes.