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An Unofficial History of Coal Mining in the Illawarra

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w w w . i l l a w a r r a c o a l . c o m

Rev.0
South Bulli Gas Outburst - 1991

At approximately 3.10am on July 24th 1991, three mineworkers were asphyxiated by gas released during an outburst at the working face in W12 Panel. They were Craig Broughton (28), miner driver, of Blackbutt, Robert Coltman (43), shuttle car driver, of Woonona and Leigh Pierce (24), of Fernhill.

The outburst occurred shortly after restarting the cutting of coal after the miner had been stopped for the routine installation of roof supports. The Deputy, Bruce Corbett, had told Mr. Broughton to recommence the mining of coal and had then walked away to investigate a diesel man car that had entered the panel. This act probably saved his life.

No gas had been detected
on the shift that the outburst
occurred nor for at least
the previous six shifts

The outburst occurred on a reverse thrust fault, previously unknown in spite of in-seam seismic exploration of the area.

The gas liberated by the structure consisted mainly of carbon dioxide with probably some methane.

Although Illawarra Bottom Gas (CO2 + CH4) had been detected on numerous occasions as this panel had progressed (as it had during the mining of W11 Panel), no gas had been detected on the shift that the outburst occurred nor for at least the previous six shifts. When previously detected it had been effectively handled as a ventilation problem, not as a precursor to an outburst.

South Bulli Colliery was not classified as an outburst prone mine with outburst mining procedures only being introduced when an outburst potential was detected. A two-week Coronial Inquest was conducted during July, 1992.

South Bulli Colliery was under the ownership of Austen & Butta at the time of the outburst, with Mr. Michael Ogilvie as Mine Manager, Mr. Lawrence Crisp the Deputy Mine Manager and Mr. Michael Clarke the Government Mines Inspector for the mine.

(SOURCE: Based on extracts from various news media reports during the Coronial Inquiry, 1992.)


~ POSTSCRIPT ~

Although some mine operators within the Southern Sydney Coal Basin had been experimenting with management plans to handle these outburst prone conditions, it was only after this triple fatality at South Bulli that this momentum accelerated. 

Assisted by certain orders brought down on all mines working the Bulli seam by the NSW Mines Inspectorate relating to the pre-drilling and sampling of all areas prior to mining, all affected mines developed their own management plans. A Dept. of Mineral Resources "guideline" for the implementation of "Outburst Management Plans" was developed, several internationally orientated symposia and local seminars were conducted with other specialised groups being formed to study the phenomena of outbursts.

 

 

 

 

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