Media Releases | 17th Feb, 2014

Hazelwood fire highlights persistent problems and failures of Latrobe Valley coal mines

17 February 2014

The week-old fire within the Hazelwood coal mine plaguing Morwell residents and firefighting crews is the latest in a series of failures at Latrobe Valley mines demonstrating the on-going problems with mine management and coal-fired electricity generation in Victoria.

The fire at Hazelwood provides an ugly backdrop to the Napthine Government’s looming decision on whether to allow more coal mines in the Latrobe Valley, with an eye to developing a brown coal export industry.

“The Napthine Government needs to come clean about their plans for more coal mines in Victoria,” said Environment Victoria Safe Climate Campaign Manager Nicholas Aberle.

“The Napthine Government is about to hand over $45 million of Victorian taxpayer money to develop new coal projects as well as considering a coal allocation. It is madness to be even considering an allocation of new coal resources given the persistent problems with existing mines. The state government needs to rule out plans for a coal allocation and start planning for a future beyond coal for the Latrobe Valley,” said Dr Aberle.

“In the past two years alone we’ve seen the Morwell river collapse into Yallourn mine, dirty water from Yallourn being pumped into the Latrobe River, and the closure of the Princes Freeway from subsidence in the Hazelwood mine.

“This latest incident, a coal-seam fire of unprecedented scale, demonstrates that mine operators and State Government regulators have lost control of mining operations with escalating costs to local communities.

“In addition to the carbon monoxide poisoning being suffered by fire-fighters and the toxic plume of smoke enshrouding Morwell, the mine fire is also causing the release of extensive carbon dioxide emissions, with little sign of being extinguished.

“This is a 30m thick coal seam that could burn for weeks along a three kilometre front. That could be equivalent to a whole new power station from an emissions point of view.”

For comment:

Dr Nicholas Aberle
Safe Climate Campaign Manager
Environment Victoria
9341 8112 / 0402 512 121

Learn about plans for 13 more mines the size of Hazelwood in the Latrobe Valley >