Auckland Scoop

Owners confirm high methane levels detected at Huntly East mine; but they say it’s safe

Media release from Solid Energy NZ
Solid Energy says that it is very confident that its Huntly East Underground Mine is operating safety. “Allegations reported this morning are alarmist, irresponsible and simply not true,” says Solid Energy Chief Operating Officer, Barry Bragg.

On 11 November monitoring equipment at Huntly East Mine detected elevated levels of methane around a geological fault in a working area of the mine. Mining operations in that area were suspended while the area was degassed over several days. This involved using an auxiliary fan which sucks out the gas at a safe, slow and steady rate.

Mr Bragg says that gas management is a routine issue for every underground mine and there was nothing about this particular issue that gave rise to any concerns. “Our monitoring equipment detected elevated gas levels and as a result we implemented our standard procedures for dealing with it.

“We fully briefed our staff on this incident and are not aware that anyone has concerns about safety at the mine. We are certainly very surprised by the allegations.”

While the incident did not have to be reported under legislation, the company did report it to the Department of Labour under its standard practice and has shared the details of the investigation with the department.

“This is part of the open and transparent process we run with our staff, the union and the department when an incident happens,” Mr Bragg says. “We’ll certainly be talking to our staff again today and encouraging anyone who has concerns or who believes that they have information about anything to talk to mine managers or our health and safety people.”

Media release from Department of Labour
Response on Huntly East Mine
This statement should be attributed to Brett Murray – General Manager, National Services and Support.

The Health and Safety in Employment Act places responsibility for mine safety firmly on the mine owners.

Solid Energy’s systems at the Huntly East mine appear to have adequately identified and managed the post-incident response to the recent methane spike.

However, the Department of Labour is investigating the circumstances that led to the spike in methane levels. The Department issued an improvement notice to the mine late last week and an inspector will be following up the notice at the mine tomorrow. The inspector has also requested to meet health and safety staff representatives at the mine tomorrow. The improvement notice relates to ventilation management systems and has immediate effect.