Solid Energy has stopped underground mining at its Spring Creek Mine, near Greymouth, following a Prohibition Notice issued yesterday by the Department of Labour's Mines Inspectorate on the basis of three recent incidents at the mine.
The Department of Labour says it issued the prohibition notice for failing to report a recent event, and not taking active steps to resolve two others.
Acting Chief Inspector Mines, Gavin Taylor said over the past three weeks, a diesel generator caught fire and injected high concentrations of carbon monoxide into the mine; one of the main fans tripped with no alert to management for 90 minutes; and an underground auxiliary fan tripped on two consecutive days, but did not, as it should have, stop the mining machine.
"Members of my team met Solid Energy [yesterday] morning, and they determined the events represented failures in management processes. The inspectors were very concerned that the issues had not been fully investigated, yet production had continued.
"The inspectors issued the prohibition notice which stopped the mine's operations.
"The prohibition notice will only be lifted once Solid Energy has provided an explanation of the events, a thorough investigation has been carried out and engineering controls and management systems have been changed to prevent a recurrence of these issues,'' Taylor said.
Barry Bragg, Solid Energy's Chief Operating Officer, said the incidents occurred due to breakdowns in systems at the mine.
However "in each case there were multiple safety controls in place which proved effective.
"The company views these incidents very seriously. They should not have happened,'' Bragg said.
"We recognise that expectations for underground mining have been raised substantially. Solid Energy fully supports this.
"We will work very closely with the Department to ensure we meet our and their expectations prior to resuming mining at Spring Creek.''
Work to maintain the safety and security of the underground environment will continue, he said.
The stoppage of underground work is not expected to affect the mine's customers, as the operation is currently in a development phase with limited coal output.
Spring Creek employs about 230 mineworkers, tradespeople and professional specialists, with about 40 people working underground at any given time.
Bragg said the stoppage affected 120 workers who would continue to get full pay.