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DMP investigates equipment fires at Premier Coal site

Premier Coal’s Collie mine is under investigation due to five separate fires involving trucks and machinery in the past three weeks.

Department of Mines and Petroleum Resources Safety Division Director of Mine Safety Andrew Chaplyn confirmed the DMP received five reports of incidents at the Premier Coal Mine this month, only one of which was significant.

He said the first minor incident, on October 6, occurred when a failed clamp on the turbo on haul truck 22 allowed oil to leak onto the exhaust side of the turbo, which ignited and was put out with a fire extinguisher.
“Two days later another small fire, on the same truck, was caused by oil from the previous leak soaking onto the engine exhaust lagging and was put out with a fire extinguisher,” Mr Chaplyn said.
The DMP was advised of a significant fire incident on October 19, in which a haul truck driver was alerted to a fire by a nearby grader operator.

“The operator activated the fire suppression equipment and exited the truck. A company investigation is underway, and three external company investigators were on site yesterday and their report will be forwarded to DMP when completed,” Mr Chaplyn said.

“Last week two incidents occurred, a hydraulic hose on an excavator ruptured causing a small fire, also a mechanical failure of a truck gearbox overheated the main bearing causing a small fire. Both fires were put out with a fire extinguisher.”

Mr Chaplyn said Premier Coal had checked all trucks and equipment for oil leaks, in view of the recent fires.

“Premier Coal is reinforcing maintenance procedures with site fitters, and a specialist trainer has been engaged. A fire prevention program for maintenance personnel and operators is also being planned,” he said.

Inspectors from DMP were on site last week and also on Wednesday to investigate the recent fire related incidents. Investigations are continuing. DMP will continue to monitor the situation closely.

The department said Premier Coal was also investigating the incidents and it would hand over its report to the department.

The WA Today reported today that workers who posted images of the blazes on Facebook have been “strongly cautioned”, according to Collie-Preston MLA Mick Murray.

“Five fires in less than two months is a shocking statistic and if these reports about dodgy equipment are true the Premier Coal management has some serious questions to answer,” he said.

“That kind of behaviour sounds like nothing but blame-shifting and when they are scrambling to keep these serious incidents under wraps you have to question their integrity.”

Mr Murray said he understood the equipment in question was sitting idle at Queensland mine sites for some time before being brought over, and had not been properly serviced before redeployment.

He said he feared for the safety of workers, and has called upon the Western Australian Government Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion to conduct an immediate inquiry into maintenance and safety procedures at the site.

He also called on Premier Coal to immediately audit all site equipment.

“What concerns me is that what is acceptable in Queensland may not be acceptable in Western Australia and that is not tolerable when we are talking about worker safety,” Mr Murray told WA Today.

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