Preventing inrushes at underground mines

Published:  23 September, 2011

The Health & Safety Executive (UK) releases a safety alert following recent inrush of water and material at Gleision Mine in South Wales which resulted in the deaths of four miners.

The purpose of this safety alert is to:

  • – remind owners and managers of producing mines of the precautions to be taken against inrushes; and
  • – request owners confirm that appropriate measures to protect against inrush are in place at their mines.

The recent inrush of water and material at Gleision Mine in South Wales which resulted in the deaths of four miners is a tragic reminder of the major hazard potential of uncontrolled inflows to mine workings. The last inrush which resulted in a loss of life in a British mine was in 1973 at Lofthouse, Yorkshire where seven miners were killed.

After that incident, the Mines (Precautions Against Inrushes) Regulations 1979 were introduced requiring owners and managers of all mines to take precautions against inrushes of gas, water and material, which flows or is likely to flow when wet.

The investigation into the Gleision inrush is still in progress and the HSE says it is too early to say exactly what went wrong.

The Approved Code of Practice to the Mines (Precautions Against Inrushes) Regulations 1979 brings together the main statutory duties and protective measures dealing with the hazard of inrushes into mine workings. It describes the methods of identifying whether the hazard of inrush exists, assessing the extent of the risk and the measures to be taken to protect against it.

Action required

There are four specific points for owners and managers to address:

  • – Ensure that plans of underground workings are accurate and up to date;
  • – Confirm that the plans contain the necessary information to indicate if workings are being carried on in what the Regulations define as a "potentially hazardous area." This includes areas which are within 37m of disused mine workings or within 45m of the surface, strata likely to contain water, material that is likely to flow when wet or other disused workings (e.g underground boreholes);
  • – Verify that if workings are being carried on in a "potentially hazardous area" a scheme has been drawn up to ensure that an inrush does not occur and is being complied with; and
  • – Confirm that a copy of any such scheme has been sent to HSE at least 30 days before the working is to start.
  • – Mine owners should write to HSE at the address below within 30 days to confirm that they have the necessary arrangements in place to ensure that these requirements are being followed. HSE will assess the information and carry out follow up inspections as necessary.

Relevant legal documents

  • – Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974
  • – Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • – Management and Administration of Safety and Health at Mines1993
  • – Mines (Precautions against Inrushes) Regulations 1979

 

References

L46 'The Prevention of Inrushes in Mines', Approved Code of Practice

  • Operation Florian

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