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Failure inquiry, Yallourn Mine Batter, Victoria, Australia

THE PROJECT

Yallourn East Field Mine is an open-cut brown coal mine in the Latrobe Valley. A failure occurred when a large block of coal slid horizontally across the mine floor and extended to the Latrobe River diverting it into the mine. No lives were lost; however, there was a 17 per cent loss of Victorian power generation for several months.

PSM’s Tim Sullivan was appointed Mining Warden in the State of Victoria to undertake an inquiry into the failure. The inquiry was to establish the facts and circumstances surrounding the collapse, consider safety issues and make recommendations to prevent or minimise the risk of similar future events.

engineering and technical opportunities

The high-profile collapse attracted significant media interest and public scrutiny. Yallourn power station, which supplied 20 per cent of Victoria’s electricity had to shut most of its generators while emergency repairs were completed.

Technical and engineering opportunities included:

  • Re-diversion of the Latrobe River to restore downstream river flows and environmental impacts
  • Understanding the unique conditions for coal mining in the Latrobe Valley
  • Strict time and budget constraints for inquiry completion.

approach AND innovation

PSM’s rigorous approach included:

  • Systematic gathering of evidence to establish the causes of the collapse
  • Understanding of the historical experience of coal mining in the Latrobe Valley
  • Review of the established geotechnical model for mine slope design
  • Examination of the key historical changes to the mine’s layout
  • Close review of the safety aspects put in place around the northeast batter.

OUTCOMES

PSM successfully provided an unbiased examination by providing extensive mining geotechnical expertise to interpret the practices used to manage and control mining risk at Yallourn before the failure.  The Victorian Government accepted inquiry recommendations in full. The inquiry led to the establishment of the Technical Review Board (TRB) and set new standards in industry practices.

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