Mine Accidents and Disasters
Mining accidents and disasters are preventable. It is a tragedy that history is often repeated and the lessons from previous accidents and disasters seem to be forgotten or ignored. The Mining Warden’s Inquiry Report into the Moura No.2 Mine disaster in 1994 found:
The previous three Inquiries into major explosions in Queensland coal mines have consistently made recommendations aimed at addressing perceived deficiencies in the coal industry's arrangements for training, or the state of knowledge of industry personnel. There has also consistently been the conduct of seminars and symposia as a response to those disasters, accompanied by the production of publications about the hazards of underground coal mining revisited in the course of those Inquiries. These measures have, however, clearly not been effective in the longer term with the industry displaying, as it does, a capacity to lose sight of the lessons of the past and to not maintain an adequate knowledge base among key personnel.
Given Australia's status as an advanced nation in the world of coal mining, we believe that the industry should support and be supported by a well-established and developing body of technical literature and technology transfer capability. It should, furthermore, look favourably on supporting the wider distribution of important learning materials generated from selected safety workshops or specialised safety courses.
It is unlikely at the time of the Moura No. 2 Inquiry Report they could have imagined the digital age and internet prevalence. But they did identify the need to provide better access to mine safety information. This site aims to perpetuate that philosophy to make past lessons more readily available to the mine workers and managers of today and tomorrow. As well as the official inquiry reports, a significant amount of other valuable material is generated as a result of mining accidents and disasters. This site aims to bring together information about mining accidents and disasters to make it easier for current and future mining communities to have access to the lessons of the past.
In his book, Managing Major Hazards – Lessons of the Moura Mine Disaster, Professor Andrew Hopkins raises the issue of repeating previous accidents.
Why do organisations seem destined to repeat their own and others' mistakes? Kletz provides an answer of sorts in the title of his book, Lessons from Disaster: How Organisations have no Memory and Accidents Recur. The problem is, he says, that those involved on the first occasion move on or forget, and the organisation itself has no corporate memory. There is a convergence here with Turner's argument since the problem is essentially one of inadequate communication of information about past accidents. Kletz suggests a variety of ways to improve the corporate memory (1993:21-2) that involve the systematic reanalysis of old accidents and recommunication of the lessons to all concerned.
The Pike River Mine Disaster Royal Commission Report dedicates a whole chapter (Chapter 20) to the concept of a failure to learn. The Royal Commission found:
As its inquiry proceeded the commission noted the extent to which the themes identiﬁed by inquiries into previous tragedies were repeated at Pike River. History demonstrates that lessons learnt from past tragedies do not automatically translate into better health and safety practice for the future. Institutional memory dims over time.
It is with this failure to learn that we dedicate the knowledge we have gained to the miners we have lost. We must also recognise the mining industry professionals and associates who have strived to learn the lessons from tragedy to make modern mines a safer place to work. We need not experience another mine accident or disaster to remind us that we must observe the lessons of the past.
As much as we have improved mine safety, we have not achieved our goal. An industry free of injury and illness is still a vision and not a reality. Until that time arrives we still have much work to do. The lessons of the past will assist us to achieve that vision. I hope that making the information more readily available, we can assist you to achieve that vision.
We are always looking for more information regarding mine accidents and disasters - so feel free to contact us.