The Hazelwood mine fire

Today [Monday] marks the first anniversary of the disastrous Hazelwood coal mine fire, however there is concern fire risk at un-rehabilitated areas of mines is still an unresolved issue.

“Twelve months on from the start of the Hazelwood fire, we haven’t yet solved the problem of un-rehabilitated areas of coal mines and the serious fire risk they pose,” Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Dr Nicholas Aberle said. “This is especially a concern as temperatures rise across Victoria this week.”

The Andrews government announced in the lead-up to the Victorian election it would spend $1.5 million to reopen the Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry, saying it would investigate the reported spike in local deaths and consider options for the mine’s rehabilitation.

“We welcome the Andrews government implementing the recommendation to require fire risk assessments by mine operators, and applying strong penalties to those who don’t comply with best practice,” Dr Aberle said. “The first Hazelwood inquiry heard clear evidence of the benefits of rehabilitation works in preventing mine fires, and rehabilitation must be a key feature of new fire prevention plans.

“It is essential that the reopened Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry makes firm and clear recommendations to speed up rehabilitation works in brown coal mines.”

Increased death likelihood increases

The anniversary comes as local action group Voices of the Valley released new data, analysed by Queensland University of Technology statistician Adrian Barnett, finding a 94 per cent probability of increased deaths in the 3844 postcode following the fire.

President of Voices of the Valley Wendy Farmer said the former government had attempted to cover up and discredit evidence showing a high probability of increased deaths due to the disaster.

“One year on, there are still many Latrobe Valley residents who are still profoundly impacted from the Hazelwood fire both in terms of their health and financial wellbeing,” Ms Farmer said.

She called on the government to increase rehabilitation bonds and non compliance penalties as well as install permanent air quality meters in nearby communities.