22 Jun 2012

Huntly residents shocked at methane build-up

5:07 am on 22 June 2012

Huntly residents say they are shocked a mine there has been temporarily shut down because of high methane levels.

Miners at Solid Energy's Huntly East mine were sent home from work Wednesday night after the Department of Labour detected the build-up of methane in a recently-mined area.

Residents living around the mine say they are now questioning whether it is safe to be in the mine at all, after the recent scare.

They want Solid Energy, which owns the mine, to explain how the build-up and risk of an explosion went undetected.

Most Huntly residents say, however, they are relieved the methane was detected before it was too late.

The Department of Labour has told Solid Energy to provide it with an urgent report on the build up of methane gas.

The department says the company needs to explain the incident and give assurances that ventilation throughout the mine is working.

Solid Energy says although coal extraction and development have been suspended, mine personnel are permitted to carry out maintenance and other work underground.

It says it remains confident its mines are operating safely.

Safety concerns were raised about the Huntly East Mine last year, but workers were assured it was safe.

Union pushes for training

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union is pushing for miners to be trained to carry out gas inspections after the methane find.

The build-up of the explosive gas was only discovered by inspectors carrying out a routine check.

The union's assistant national secretary, Ged O'Connell, says miners need to be able to elect a qualified miner as their own chief inspector.