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September 23, 2011

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Welsh mining disaster prompts HSE safety alert

The HSE has issued a safety alert to the mining industry reminding it of the precautions to be taken against inrushes at underground mines.
It follows last week’s tragic events in South Wales, when an inrush of water and material at Gleision Mine resulted in the death of four miners. The HSE investigation into the Gleision inrush is still in progress and it is too early to draw any conclusions about what exactly went wrong.
Prior to this incident, the last inrush that resulted in a loss of life in a British mine occurred in 1973 at Lofthouse, Yorkshire, where seven miners were killed. That incident led to the Mines (Precautions Against Inrushes) Regulations 1979, which required owners and managers of all mines to take precautions against inrushes of gas, water and material, which flows, or is likely to flow, when wet.
The Approved Code of Practice to the 1979 Regulations – which can be downloaded at – brings together the main statutory duties and protective measures dealing with the hazard of inrushes into mines. It describes the methods of identifying whether the hazard of inrush exists, assessing the extent of the risk, and the measures to be taken to protect against it.
There are four specific points for owners and managers to address:

  • ensure that plans of underground workings are accurate and up to date;
  • confirm that the plans contain the necessary information to indicate if workings are being carried on in what the Regulations define as a “potentially hazardous area”. This includes areas that are: within 37m of disused mine workings, or within 45m of the surface; strata likely to contain water; material that is likely to flow when wet; or other disused workings, such as underground boreholes;
  • verify that if workings are being carried on in a “potentially hazardous area”, a scheme has been drawn up to ensure that an inrush does not occur and that it is being complied with; and
  • confirm that a copy of any such scheme is sent to the HSE at least 30 days before the work is to start.

Mine owners should write to the HSE at the address below within 30 days to confirm that they have the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that these requirements are being followed. The Executive says it will assess the information and carry out follow-up inspections as necessary.
The HSE’s address is:
Specialised Industries Division
HM Inspectorate of Mines
Foundry House
3 Millsands
Riverside Exchange
S3 8NH

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