A retired judge or Queens Counsel will head an independent mine safety Board of Inquiry following serious injuries to five miners in a coal mine explosion last week.
Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the board would be able to conduct public hearings, call witnesses and make broad inquiries, findings and recommendations relating to the underground gas explosion that occurred at Anglo-American’s Grosvenor coal mine outside Moranbah.
“Last week’s underground gas explosion is something the industry has not experienced for more than quarter of a century,” Dr Lynham said.
“An underground gas explosion in a coal mine is simply unacceptable in the 21st century.
“As serious as it was, it could have been far worse, as every underground coal miner and their families know.
“The inquiries that followed the underground gas explosions at Moura changed mine safety in Queensland.
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“This latest board of inquiry is an opportunity to continue this government’s sweeping reforms to protect mine workers.”
The last Queensland mine gas explosion was Moura No 2 in 1994, when 11 men failed to return to the surface.
A Mining Warden’s Inquiry – forerunner of boards of inquiry – made a number of recommendations, including around self-rescue apparatus for miners, training for managers and requirements for safety and health management systems.
“Queenslanders remember the terrible accidents at Moura No.2 and No.4 coal mines,” Dr Lynham said.
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“The inquiry reports that followed those tragedies recommended safety measures that still protect mine workers today and that have no doubt prevented further incidents and saved lives over the past two decades.
“Queensland has the world’s toughest mine safety and health laws, more inspectors on the ground than in a decade, and industrial manslaughter laws before the Parliament.
“This latest board of inquiry is an opportunity to continue this government’s reforms to protect mine workers.”
Dr Lynham said a shortlist of board of inquiry members was being considered and terms of reference refined.
“I expect to be able to announce the board membership and detailed terms of reference by the end of May, with the inquiry to commence immediately.
“The board will conduct its inquiry so as not to prejudice any potential future prosecutions.
“It will provide an interim report before the election, which I will table in Parliament, and a final report, also to be tabled.”