Appin mine halt continues amid ‘safety issues’

Halted: Appin colliery: Picture: Robert Peet
Halted: Appin colliery: Picture: Robert Peet

Underground operations at the Appin Colliery remain suspended, two weeks on from the latest in a string of gas-related incidents.

The mine’s operator, South32, has also flagged an “extended” closure, with the company’s shares dropping on the back of the company’s production update to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).

Workers at the mine were evacuated on June 28 amid gas problems, prompting the NSW Resources Regulator to express concern about ongoing operational issues. 

The regulator slapped South32 with a prohibition notice following that incident, described by the company as “an issue with the gas extraction system”.

A review of the Appin Colliery’s systems and operating practices was now being carried out “to ensure its ongoing safety and reliability”, South32 said in the statement to the ASX. 

“Given the scope of this review, an extended outage is now anticipated before production at Illawarra Metallurgical Coal can be restored to historic levels,” the statement said.  

A spokesman for the Department of Planning and Environment confirmed the mine continued to be “the subject of a targeted regulatory intervention because of ongoing safety and compliance concerns”.

Ensuring workers at the mine are not exposed to risk is essential to enable mining to resume at the site.- Department of Planning and Environment spokesman

Despite limited underground access being approved to ensure the security of the mine workings, normal mining at the site remained prohibited, the department’s spokesman said. 

“The Resources Regulator continues to work with South32 surrounding issues involving safety and compliance,” he said.

“Ensuring workers at the mine are not exposed to risk is essential to enable mining to resume at the site. 

“We will continue to work with the owners of the mine to reach that goal.”

Gas has been an ongoing issue at Appin, with methane build-ups causing operations to cease in October last year, and again in May.

South32 shares dropped nine cents, or 3.2 per cent, to $2.72 following the ASX production update on Monday.

The price had improved by Tuesday afternoon, to $2.78.  

South32’s Dendrobium mine, near Mount Kembla, is unaffected by the suspension and remains operational.