Underground » Health and Safety
Stage 1 Report
The aim of this project has been to provide industry with the functional specification for an emergency response information management system, including a prototype, developed and utilised to assist Incident Management Teams with effective information management and critical decision making during an emergency. This research project was successful in developing a tool titled "Mine Re-entry Assessment System" (MRAS) which supported and reflected the risk based paper guideline. The tool has been developed in Microsoft Access.
Additional to the development of the MRAS the research team undertook a review of the existing mines rescue control procedures and exclusion zones for the assessment of explosibility risk. This process included a major risk assessment for "The determination of limits for Mines Rescue Teams operating in a mine with potentially explosive atmospheres" which involved the QMRS, MRNSW, CMTS, Simtars, MISHC, Qld and NSW mines inspectorate and industry representatives.
This risk assessment resulted in the development of a risk matrix and Trigger action response Plan (TARP) for assessing explosibility risk to rescuers when entering a mine. The TARP takes into consideration not only available fuel but oxygen nose point and potential ignition sources. Additionally a proof of concept explosibility graph was developed to meet the requirements of the QMRS and MRNSW Emergency Mine Entry or Re-entry (EMER) Guideline.
Sadly, during this project two significant mine incidents occurred in Australia and New Zealand with one claiming the lives of 29 men. The Pike River Mine disaster which occurred on the 19th November 2010 came only two days after the EMER Guideline was presented to industry in Queensland at the QMRS Inertisation Seminar in Mackay, Queensland. At this stage, although the EMER Guideline was developed in full in a paper based format, the proof of concept software tool development was only in its infancy. Within two weeks of the Pike River Mine disaster occurring all of the projects researchers had a direct involvement providing advice and assistance for the re-entry and recovery operation. The Pike River Mine Re-entry Hazard Management Plan (HMP) and associated control procedures established by the New Zealand Mines Rescue Service (NZMRS) were heavily based on the process and concepts developed within the QMRS and NSWMRS EMER Guideline and original risk assessment. The development of the Pike River Mine Re-entry HMP occurred concurrently (but separately) with the development of MRAS with both being completed for review in May 2011. Due to the strong association between the Pike River Mine Re-entry HMP, the EMER Guideline and MRAS, it was agreed by all parties to use part of the software tool to assist the Mine Re-entry Control Team with the information management and decision making processes during the six day re-entry and temporary seal construction operation.
The MRAS tool has been further modified by QMRS to assist with effective information management and decision making processes in the event that a mining operation QMRS provides assistance to does not have a similar system implemented. This modified system was trialled at the Queensland level one emergency exercise held at Anglo Coal Aquila Colliery.
The main findings of this project were mining operations, in both Qld and NSW, had similar challenges obtaining and maintaining relevant and critical information (from their own SMS) during an emergency due to:
· The location of particular information or the status of particular information being reliant on §the knowledge of one or two specific people;
· The information is not maintained or identified as important in the event of an emergency e.g. the location and operational status of existing boreholes.
Mining operations give little consideration to the locality and survivability of information and communication systems critical to obtaining the required information post an incident (of any type or size) i.e. Atmospheric monitoring and underground communications systems.
Approximately 70% of required relevant information to make an informed risk based decision during an emergency could be known before an incident occurs (Routine information); therefore the identification of, along with the maintenance and accessibility to this relevant routine information can significantly enhance an Incident management team's ability to reach critical decision points in a timelier manner.
The developed proof of concept tool (MRAS) reasonably demonstrates that a fit for purpose software tool has the ability to significantly augment the information management and decision making processes during an emergency at a mine when supported by;
As a minimum its content and structure reflects the current requirements set out in the risk based guideline the tool has been established from. The users of the tool have a good understanding of its functionality and purpose along with a high understanding of risk management processes and practices.
Stage 2 Report
A question commonly raised throughout the original project was "will the systems providing this required information remain operational once an incident occurs?" Other associated questions raised were; what type and magnitude of incident could render existing systems non-operational in an emergency? What contingencies do operations have in place or available to them to counter this risk? And what can be done to "harden" or protect these systems.
These concerns are not new with the group of experts formed following the Moura No. 2 disaster to address Mines Rescue Strategy Development (Task Group 4), raising many of the same issues. The problem is not unique to the Australian industry; it is a common concern of emergency responders around the world.
To assist address these issues an extension to the project was undertaken, allowing a scoping study to research and identify existing and future strategies, systems and hardware which have the potential to support and provide the information requirements of decision makers during or after an incident at an underground coal mine.
This report delivers the findings of both stage of this project and outlines what further research could be undertaken to build on the successful outcomes of this project.