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Labour Dept closes Solid Energy mine on safety concerns

Tuesday 21st February 2012

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Solid Energy, the state-owned coal miner, has stopped work at its Spring Creek underground mine after being issued with a prohibition notice by the Department of Labour.   

The mines inspectorate issued the notice yesterday after three separate incidents at the mine. Solid Energy chief operating officer Barry Bragg said the incidents occurred due to systems breakdowns, but multiple safety controls “proved effective”. Solid Energy shut the mine for five months in the wake of the 2010 Pike River disaster to carry out safety checks.

“We recognise that expectations for underground mining have been raised substantially,” Bragg said in a statement. “We will work very closely with the department to ensure we meet our and their expectations prior to resuming mining at Spring Creek.”

The notice comes just three days after the department closed the Broken Hills gold mine in the Coromandel after that operation failed to bring itself up to standard following a January inspection. The Coromandel mine was given an improvement notice outlining where it didn’t comply, but those issues weren’t remedied.

Mine safety has been under close scrutiny since the November 2010 explosions that killed 29 men at the Pike River underground coal mine and prompted a Royal Commission on inquiry into the disaster.

Solid Energy said the stoppage of underground work isn’t expected to impact on the mine’s customers, with the operation in a development phase, producing limited output.

Earlier this month, Solid Energy bought back the 49 percent stake in Spring Creek it sold to American multinational company Cargill in 2007 for an undisclosed price.

The closure came on the eve of Solid Energy’s first-half earnings, which are due out today.


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