8th October 2021
To Peter Newman
Chief Inspector of Coal Mines Qld
CC: DCIOCM Dobson. Minister Stewart
RE: North Goonyella Investigation and 3-year time limit expiry;
Dear Chief Inspector Newman,
Let me begin by stating that I am extremely disappointed in your failure to adequately respond or acknowledge my previous correspondence.
As you will be well aware, the Public Sector Ethics Act 1994 requires that public officials uphold high standards of accountability and transparency. Through my correspondence with you over several month it is my opinion that, as a Queensland Public Official responsible for the administration and regulation in the State of Queensland that you have failed to abide by these principles.
Specifically, you have advised me on several occasions that you will provide me a reply by a due date to issues I have raised with you and your office regarding the conduct of mining safety practices in the State of Queensland including those at the North Goonyella mine. I have noted on many occasions that your pattern of behavior shows an ongoing history of failing to abide by your promised time frames. In fact, I have seldom received a reply to issues raised despite your commitment to provide a reply by a specified date.
I have previously raised with you my concerns over the issues surrounding a failure to prosecute within 3-year time frame a range of offences that have allegedly occurred in relation to the North Goonyella Mine Fire in September 2018. From my recent investigations, the agency whom you manage, Resources Safety & Health Queensland, has failed to take regulatory action on those parties that (through their actions) resulted in the desecration of a coal asset and the subsequent loss of hundreds of millions of royalties due to the people and the State of Queensland.
Furthermore, it is my opinion that you and your Statutory Authority (Resources Safety & Health Queensland) have ignored many other pertinent issues in relation to this incident. These are not limited to the obvious environmental contamination and loss of jobs at the mine but also extend to a range of poor and unsafe mining practices at the mine in the leadup to the mine fire.
The constant obfuscation of the facts of this incident by you and Resources Safety & Health Queensland and the failure to provide transparency of information in the wake of the incident, in my opinion, amounts to mismanagement of a Public Sector Agency and may also extend to areas covered under Section 15(2) of the Crime and Misconduct Act 2001.
Mineworkers in Queensland have a right to know and learn from the failures of the mine operator and the Queensland Government. The disclosure of information on this event is critical in that subsequent spontaneous combustion methane explosions occurring in Queensland mines may have been prevented through the release of information.
I, and the underground coal mineworkers have many unanswered questions in relation to the incident and how it could be prevented. Specifically,
- What is the rational for not providing information to mine workers on what you have found/known?
- Why have you remained silent in the wake of a significant event that affected the lives and livelihoods of many Queensland mineworkers?
- Why have you remained silent on a significant event that has seen the loss of hundreds of millions of royalties for the State of Queensland
- Why was the three-year time frame permitted to expire and why was a prosecution against parties to the incident not commenced.
I recently became privy to information in relation to activities of the Queensland Board of Examiners as directed by the Queensland Mines Inspectorate whereby I am informed that “show cause” letters were issued to statutory officials associated with this event in December 2020 however, I am also informed that these were withdrawn and a subsequent show cause letters were issued in March 2021. The subsequent failure to utilize these powers to protect mine workers in the State of Queensland against Statutory Officials who allegedly were responsible for a significant mine safety event is tantamount to mismanagement by a Public Sector Agency and you as an official directing that agency.
Over the past months, I have been contacted by many Queensland Coal Mine Workers who have re-iterated to me that Queensland Mines Department (RSHQ) has become just a “sick perverted joke”.
Chief Inspector Newman, when is it going to be enough?
The forever entombed miners from Box Flat, Kianga and Moura 2 would be rolling in their graves if they had one, instead of their bodies being forever lost in the mine that killed them.
In 2018 North Goonyella became the most serious spontaneous combustion event since Moura No 2. Following the North Goonyella mine fire fiasco in 2018, we have seen the spontaneous combustion methane explosion at Grosvenor in 2020 and the “Overpressure Event” and ongoing difficulties at Moranbah North in 2021.
There is a bottom line when it comes to coal mine workers safety in Queensland and in my opinion you together with RSHQ and the Queensland Minister for Resources have an obligation to fulfil your statutory responsibilities and release the information gathered on the North Goonyella incident.
Mine workers are forced to rely on their management to competently undertake their duties and Mines Inspectors oversight for their Safety and Health. Mineworkers deserve to finally see for themselves what went wrong at North Goonyella mine in September 2018?
There is a saying that has been bandied around the industry for several years. Mineworkers have become “Coal Face Cannon Fodder.” Those people need to put real work clothes on, not ironed permanent press. Those workers are the ones that need to have a shower at the end of the shift. They are the ones that bear the consequences of you and your agencies inactions.
Chief Inspector Newman….it’s time you stepped up for the mineworkers of Queensland. For after the next mining spontaneous combustions related fatality would you be able to look a grieving family in the eye and honestly say you tried your best?
The workers of North Goonyella mine and people of Queensland who ultimately own this asset deserve better. They deserve an explanation and public disclosure of information in relation to the North Goonyella mine fire. They deserve to know why prosecutions were not initiated, why Statutory officials who oversaw this tragic event were not deregistered and why the Queensland Government have failed to disclose.
Yours in Safety