2011 Gleison Colliery Inrush

15/06/2011 - Gleison Colliery - Inrush

On the morning of 15 September 2011, work was about to start as usual at Gleision Mine, a small coal mine in the Swansea Valley. At around 5.45 am, the mine manager arrived at the site and, over the next half hour or so, the other eight workers arrived on site.

Around 7.00 am six of the workers went below ground (see paragraph 32).

At around 9.30 am, the first round of explosives was fired (see paragraph 11). The blast released a large body of water from old workings which rushed into the working stall, which was the part of the mine from where coal was being extracted, and where the manager, Malcolm Fyfield, and workers Phillip Hill, David Powell and Charles Breslin were. Two other workers, David Wyatt and Garry Jenkins, were nearby.

Such was the volume and speed of the water inrush that four of the men – Phillip Hill, David Powell, Charles Breslin and Garry Jenkins – were overwhelmed and died. Malcolm Fyfield was injured but managed to escape through the old workings and emerged on the surface about an hour later. David Wyatt and another worker underground, Nigel Evans, who was further away from the stall, just managed to escape to the surface and raise the alarm.

A sustained search and rescue operation over the next two days ultimately proved unsuccessful. Over the following days and weeks an initial on-site investigation was started as part of a major joint investigation led by South Wales Police and supported by HSE. The investigation was supported by others from Mines Rescue Service Ltd (MRSL) and the nearby Aberpergwm, Unity and Nant Hir mines. Invaluable support was also provided by specialist contractors, equipment suppliers, including Hewden Hire and Pump Supplies Ltd of Port Talbot, and other people with long experience of working small coal mines in South Wales. Their dedication kept the mine accessible for the duration of a very difficult investigation carried out in challenging circumstances.

This accident claimed the lives of 4 people, these were: Charles Breslin, David Powell, Garry Jenkins, Phillip Hill


Lessons learned

Focusing on inrush hazard identification, risk assessment, the deployment of suitable risk control measures and the application of the precautionary principle where there are uncertainties remain the correct principles to follow to protect people who may be at risk from inrush hazards. These principles were embodied in existing legislation and have been carried forwards into the new mining regulatory framework which is now in force.

Immediately following the incident, a programme of inspections focused on other mines with inrush hazards found the level of compliance with relevant legislation was generally good and no significant shortcomings were found.

The procedures set out in the multi-agency agreement ‘Work Related Death – A Protocol for Liaison (England and Wales)’ are generally fit-forpurpose.

The wider learning points in relation to the search and rescue operation arising out of the multiagency debrief meetings at Baglan in December 2011 are beyond the scope of this report.