Environment Victoria has today welcomed clearer health instructions to Morwell residents affected by the Hazelwood mine fires but said that Premier Napthine dodged questions in today’s press conference about whether the state government had done all it could to minimise the risk of coal mine fires.
Environment Victoria Acting CEO Mark Wakeham said today:
“Finally we are seeing some clearer advice to Morwell residents about the health impacts of the mine fire, and stronger advice to leave, which is welcome.
“The advice further confirms the serious health risks posed to Morwell and Latrobe Valley residents by the Hazelwood mine fire.
“However it was disappointing to see the Premier in his press conference dodging critical questions about whether the state government and mine regulators had done everything they could do to reduce the risk of a coal seam fire.
“Exposed mine walls at Hazelwood were tinder-dry when embers from grass fires ignited the mine fire. Given that this area of the mine has been unused for decades it should have been covered with earth to minimise the risk of fire.
“Its unclear why the state government and mining company have not acted to require rehabilitation of disused parts of the mine to reduce the risks of a mine fire.
“Instead of ignoring critical questions, we now need the state government to support an independent judicial inquiry into the Hazelwood mine fire with the ability to call independent witnesses and get to the bottom of the causes of the mine fire and the adequacy of the response effort.
“Environment Victoria is currently seeking the relevant mine management and rehabilitation plans and are working with the Environment Defenders Office to explore the legal implications.”
“Whether the failure to rehabilitate disused areas of the mine lies with GDF Suez, the state government or both will be significant in determining financial liability for the firefighting and clean-up effort; air pollution and greenhouse emissions; and inevitable damages claims from affected residents and businesses.
“While the immediate priority remains putting out the fire, we need a commitment now to a full judicial review and a commitment to answering the hard questions.”
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