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Conference Proceedings

Australian Mine Ventilation Conference 2017

Conference Proceedings

Australian Mine Ventilation Conference 2017

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Regulator's perspective on gas and ventilation management

*This is an abstract only. No full paper is available for this abstract.* Gas and hazardous atmospheres in underground coal mining are arguably the most significant hazards in mining. The Pike River coalmine explosion, which killed 29 mine workers was a major wake-up call for industry and regulators about the potential devastation of the failure to manage these hazards.Through its Quality Regulatory Services Initiative, the NSW Government requires all regulators to adopt a risk-based and outcomes-focused approach. In 2016 the NSW Resources Regulator implemented the Incident Prevention Strategy to focus on those matters that pose the greatest regulatory risk. A key plank of the strategy is the targeted assessment program, which provides a planned, intelligence-driven and proactive approach to assessing how effectively mine operators are managing the principal hazards defined in the work health and safety laws. Mine operators are required to manage principal hazards through a planned and systematic approach.In 2016 we were seeing repetitive notifications of exceedances of prescribed methane gas levels in underground coalmines. Of concern was that these notifications were particularly consistent in what are well known as gassy' mines, such as in the southern coalfields.In one case, a mine had more than 20 exceedance events in one month.As a regulator we formed the view that breaches of methane gas levels may have become normalised and there was a risk of insufficient attention, from industry and the regulator, to the management of the risk. We decided that further examination was necessary.The regulator's targeted assessment program therefore focused on gas and ventilation issues at nine underground coalmines. The targeted assessment is an in-depth look at the control measures and their implementation. The assessments were undertaken by a team of mine safety inspectors through a combination of desktop and physical assessments.Targeted assessments are seen as a valuable process and a powerful analytical tool capable of identifying critical risk control issues not previously uncovered by conventional inspection regimes. This approach also highlights the strong benefits of the multidisciplinary inspection team in identifying issues through one activity across relevant disciplines.A key finding from the targeted assessment program was that underground coalmines need to ensure that methane sensors and gas monitors are positioned to maximise the likelihood of detecting the gas being monitored and produce accurate readings. The regulator also found that mine operators should ensure procedures are in place to identify and quickly respond to increasing methane trends; consider the risks associated with barometric changes; and prevent intake air from travelling across the face of a permanent seal at the mine.More generally, mines need to ensure that plans within the safety management system are effectively managed and controlled, with appropriate review mechanisms developed and implemented. Risk assessments and supporting procedures should be incorporated into the management plans as necessary.The outcomes of the targeted assessment program is shaping how the regulator focuses its ongoing efforts on monitoring the implementation of underground mines' critical control measures for managing gas, in particularly around ventilation.CITATION:Shearer, L, 2017. Regulator's perspective on gas and ventilation management, in Proceedings Australian Mine Vent Conference 2017, pp 9-10 (The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy: Melbourne).
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  • Published: 2016
  • PDF Size: 0.061 Mb.
  • Unique ID: P201704002

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