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20th Anniversary of the Moura Mine Disaster

Thursday 7th August 2014 marked 20 years since the Moura No.2 Mine disaster that took the lives of 11 coal mine workers in Central Queensland. This was the third coal mining disaster to strike Moura in less than 20 years.

On the evening of 7th August 1994, 21 miners were working in No 2 Underground when the first of two explosions occurred. The cause of the first explosion is still not known, the most likely cause was identified as ‘a pocket of burning coal that came into contact with combustible methane gas in a section known as Panel 512’. Ten miners were able to apply their self-rescuers and make their way to the surface, sadly eleven lost their lives. Following a second explosion two days later, the mine was subsequently sealed and to date their bodies remain unrecovered. The effect of this disaster is still felt by the community of Moura.

The enquiry that followed revealed several instances where both monitoring and subsequent evaluation were completely inadequate, and further complicated through poor communication channels. One line of investigation revealed that whilst the gas monitoring equipment implemented by the mine at the time was described as industry best, the manner in which the devices were utilised was inconsistent and relevant standards not clearly understood nor communicated to all. It was not widely known by all that CO measurement was to be taken as ‘CO Make’ in lpm rather than the previous standard of CO in ppm. This oversight appears to have contributed to a gross misunderstanding of the severity of the panel heating that was developing over a period of weeks. It was also found that there was no method implemented that would have allowed the Deputy reports citing heating concerns to be widely circulated to management.

The Warden’s Inquiry also made many recommendations in the areas of Mine Safety Management Plans, Gas Monitoring, Spontaneous Combustion Management, Ventilation and a change to Self-Rescuers to name a few. It is very unfortunate that disasters of this magnitude need to occur in order to make the mining industry (and our jobs) safer.

Knowledge Management is the key to averting disasters such as Moura No 2. In this case, whilst there was an extremely high focus placed on ventilation and gas monitoring, the communication of up to date information, observations, and concerns was sadly lacking. Although it may not have prevented an explosion, perhaps the implementation of a structured reporting process may have averted loss of life. Today, 20 years ago I lost my best friend, my next door neighbour, friends lost their fathers/brothers/husbands/uncles, and very nearly lost my father who was assisting with the rescue attempt at the time of the second explosion 2 days later.

Please be safe, today and every day – the families of your workmates will thank you forever.

Helen Coles

Helen is a Brisbane based geologist who was living in Moura at the time of the No 2 mine disaster.

Brisbane geoscientist receives Queensland Open Data Competition Award

Brisbane geoscientist, Helen Coles, was recently announced as a runner-up in the Queensland Government’s Science for Solutions open data competition.

Helen works with Rio Tinto Exploration in Brisbane, specialising in GIS analysis of exploration data.

Brisbane geoscientist Helen Coles with her Open Data Competition certificate

Brisbane geoscientist Helen Coles with her Open Data Competition certificate

Her award was for a smartphone app design that provides farmers and other rural landusers with access to groundwater data compiled by government agencies by mapping water bores and displaying the available data for them.   This information is of real benefit to landholders, particularly in areas where coal seam gas development is occurring and management of water resources is critical to ensure existing landuse is not adversely affected by gas extraction.   Helen’s app provides a visual representation of actual and proposed Coal Seam Gas (CSG) well depth in relation to water tables. It is designed to: increase stakeholders’ understanding of the interaction of wells with the water table; assist with infrastructure design and assessment; and reduce potential conflicts between different stakeholder groups.

The Science for Solutions open data competition awards were presented on Friday 11 July 2014 at The Cube, Science and Engineering Centre, Queensland University of Technology, as part of the GovHack-Brisbane event launch.  The purpose of the competition was to promote the use, reuse and re-purposing of science data freely available on the Queensland Government open data portal.  This initiative also encouraged the creation of data visualisations, application development and other unique treatments of the science datasets provided by the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts.

The competition represents an innovative way of promoting effective use of public geoscience data by government.  There are two sections to the competition: one for schools and an open competition.  Other entries to receive awards included:

  • a website and app designed to provide clear and relevant scientific information about the many species of animals from inland, marine, coastal and waterway areas as well as prehistoric information throughout Queensland;
  • a mapping and reporting application designed to assist agencies rapidly assess the risks and impact of natural disasters on agriculture and horticultural areas;
  • a web-browser based application that allows users to intuitively visualise, overlay, combine, filter and perform statistical analysis on data. Users can easily access other online data sources such as Queensland Government Open Data to complement other data;
  • applications to assess bushfire risk, and deliver re- or near-real time information to landholders and residents affected by bushfire emergencies;
  • a data visualisation, using the Queensland Globe, designed to help resolve the competing ground water uses (uptake and discharge) by different stakeholders (e.g. mining companies, farmers, government) and consider the impacts on natural systems such as groundwater dependent ecosystems; and,
  • a mobile app and visualisation tool enabling farmers to identify groundwater wells susceptible to salt table rising, and modify their management strategies to maintain farm productivity.

Congratulations to all those recognised for their entries and to the competition organisers for their contribution to promoting effective, transparent and innovative access to and use of public geoscience data.

AIG Victoria Branch News

Activities of the Vic branch of the AIG during the first half of 2014 comprised a series of monthly technical talks, which have included such esoteric subjects as the geology of various gold deposits from China to Nevada – and computer applications and remote sensing.

The latest talk was by Bruce Kay (see Fig 1), now Technical Director at Catalyst Metals Ltd, who gave a gripping and most entertaining description of his adventurous ride with Normandy.

Bruce Kay

Bruce Kay addressing the Victorian Branch meeting on 12th August 2014

 

AIG Members 2

AIG Members

AIG members assembling at Basement on View for Bruce Kay’s talk

Additional monthly technical talks are locked-in for the balance of the year, but also well-advanced are plans for next month’s ‘New Perspectives’ workshop1 that will focus on the geology and metallogeny of the southeast Lachlan Fold Belt (a JV with AusIMM).  Further details are available via the listing in the AIG Events Calendar.

The Victorian branch also plans to visit to the Australian Synchrotron, and in conjunction with the IAH will have a field trip around the Ballarat area in late November (the details of which will be announced in due course).

Geoff Hodgson,
AIG Victoria Branch Secretary

 

TESEP 2013 Annual Report

2013 Annual Report on the Teacher Earth Science Education ProgrammeTESEP

Jill Stevens, Chair, Teacher Earth Science Education Programme

Earth and Environmental Science (EES) is a large component in the new Australian curriculum.

Over the years 2011-13, Teacher Earth Science Education Programme (TESEP) representatives on the ACARA National Curriculum Board education committee, as well as geological society letters of endorsement, have had a significant part in influencing the current higher level of applied EES in the new national curriculum at junior science and at senior elective levels.

The new integrated aspect of EES (as taught in junior/middle secondary) should encourage more students to elect to do EES at senior secondary and tertiary levels. TESEP teaching material is aimed at junior-middle secondary (with additional higher level material, activities and web links).

Teachers nationally – across five states and two territories (except WA) – have benefited from TESEP professional development workshops.

In the implementation years 2013 to 2016 of the new national Australian Curriculum, I am pleased to report the following TESEP top statistics:

  • Total of 1434 teacher attendances, 120 one-day PD workshops, in 25 locations (as of 03 April 2014).
  • The multiplier effect of each teacher influencing 2 to 5 other teachers results in over 400,000 students being impacted by TESEP EES teaching resources.
  • Teachers recognise the direct application of TESEP’s teaching resource material and its place in the new Australian Curriculum. Year 8 focus (in 2013 curriculum rollout) has been PD1 Round & Round with Rocks (from ore to metal) and Year 9 focus (in 2014 curriculum rollout) is been addressed with a new PD9 Plate Tectonics teaching unit (the framework around the eight existing topics of energy, minerals, groundwater and climate). This has been well-received.
  • Overwhelmingly, positive teacher feedback – on PD theory and hands-on exercises and fieldtrip/site visits.  Teachers from upper primary, trainee, and all levels of secondary (from Science, Maths, Geography streams) have attended. Feedback comments – ‘having the blinkers lifted’ and there have been requests for more ‘difficult’ EES topics.

After winning the AAPG Harrison Schmitt Award 2012 , the TESEP Board (comprised of representatives from Australian Geoscience Council (AGC), AIG, PESA, AusIMM, MCA, GA, ASTA) urged the team to keep up the momentum and continue face-to-face workshops, particularly in new locations. Steps to convert PDs to online format for online webinar delivery ensure that as many teachers in new and existing locations have access to all of ‘The Challenging Earth’ series PD workshops.

Field excursions/mine visits will be integral to many PD workshops (depending on the location), and in-kind support of mining and exploration industry staff in guided tours and short talks is sought. Teachers have been very enthusiastic about the 15 field excursions and 18 tours of mine sites/laboratories/geo-museums previously run.

Teachers have particularly appreciated the participation by industry and academic professionals.

TESEP is running to budget, with approximately $239 000 funds remaining.

Highlights of TESEP in 2013 comprise:

  • New PD9 Plate Tectonics – a new PD on this overarching theme (to meet the needs of year 9 curriculum rollout in 2014).
  • Completion of the original planned 112 PD workshops and the continued running of face-to-face professional development PD workshops.
  • Significant rural TESEP hubs have developed at Dubbo NSW, Gladstone and Rockhampton Qld and Burnie Tas.
  • Some workshops include half-day fieldtrips (mine site visits). Industry professionals (PESA, AusIMM, mines departments) have assisted as in-kind support.
  • Webinar trials have been run on two topics, for a 4 x 1hr or 6 x 1hr once-weekly format.  This gives remote teachers (and others with time-constraints) the flexibility to be involved in PDs in an after-school hours timeslot, where they can ask the presenter questions online, as well as to do the webinar at another time of their choosing.
  • Development of a case studies supplement to the national Year 11-12 textbook for Earth and Environmental Science (developed by Earth Science WA) – this consists of the development of national case studies that give teachers local and regional examples from all over Australia. Ten have been drafted so far from work submitted by academic, industry and society geologists of diverse backgrounds from across Australia.  Coordination is being undertaken by TESEP Executive Officer Greg McNamara. Case studies will be uploaded to our website for free downloading by teachers.
  • Development of field guides for teachers and students – simply-worded stop-by-stop descriptive guides for teachers and worksheet questions for various year levels. TESEP presenters have tested several new field trips and set up student and teacher worksheets and pre-trip questions, eg Sydney Basin Illawarra Coast NSW fluvial and coal stratigraphy, Otway Basin Vic shelfal stratigraphy, Western Victoria Volcanics, Sleeps Hill/Jupiter Creek Gold SA.
  • Site visits and collaborations: 18 excited teachers were flown to OzMinerals’ Prominent Hill Copper Mine SA and staff guided them through how this opencut mine operates, Melbourne Museum hosted several PDs and staff discussed their Dynamic Earth Exhibition, Scienceworks/Planetarium held PDs on climate and VSSEC hosted PDs on Our Place in Space.
  • Free downloadable teaching materials and approachable presenters and coordinators: TESEP evergreen website www.tesep.org.au (TESEP EO is webmaster), local state coordinator contacts in all states and territories (except WA) and freely downloadable PD teaching material on www.geosciencepathways.org.au (webmaster cofunded by PESA and ASEG).
  • AAPG-funded 2014 planned trial of TESEP PD teaching material in Jakarta, Indonesia – by local university staff and students (after training by TESEP and AAPG presenters).

We hope you have enjoyed reading about the 2013 success of TESEP. The TESEP team looks forward to discussing future funding of 2014-2016 TESEP with you.

Enquiries can be addressed to Jill Stevens (Chairperson) or Greg McNamara (Executive Officer).

Visit the TESEP website or Facebook for further information.

Queensland ready for uranium opportunities

The Queensland government has announced its readiness to accept applications for uranium exploration and mining proposals.

The government’s announcement speaks to the economic potential of uranium exploration and production and claims that Queensland’s best practice uranium mining framework will provide  regulatory efficiency and investment certainty for uranium mining in Queensland.

Uranium mining is seen to be similar to other forms of metalliferous mining.  New exploration and mining projects will be managed through current minerals tenure controls and processes applying to other commodities. The Queensland uranium framework is considered by the government to take account of all relevant issues across the uranium mining life cycle such as strict environmental standards, safe handling, transportation and risk management for safety and health.

Further information is provided by the Department of Natural Resources and Mines web site.

Mines Minister Andrew Cripps also announced the release of the abandoned Mary Kathleen Mine, near Mount Isa, for competitive tender for rare earths exploration.  He said the release of Mary Kathleen Mine would unlock significant deposits of rare earth elements known to exist at the site, which was closed in 1982.

“This competitive tender process will provide the successful tenderer with access to the high-value rare earths and other minerals present at the site,” Mr Cripps said.

Rare earth elements from this site could eventually be used in the manufacture of modern technologies such as mobile phones, flat-screen televisions, magnets, rechargeable batteries and defence systems.

“Unlocking Mary Kathleen means more long-term economic development and more job opportunities for communities in the north west of Queensland,” Mr Cripps said.