Hazelwood Mine Manager Charged With 10 Offences Over 2014 Morwell Fire
The company responsible for managing the Hazelwood mine in Victoria’s La Trobe Valley has been charged with 10 offences following a devastating mine fire which burned for 45 days and left surrounding suburbs choked by ash.
The fire began on 9 February 2014 after embers from surrounding bushfires entered the mine. The nearby town of Morwell was among the worst affected, left blanketed in ash, and residents were exposed to toxic carbon monoxide. It was the largest and longest-running mine fire in the history of Victoria.
With the two-year anniversary of the fire on Monday, WorkSafe Victoria on Thursday charged the Hazelwood Power Corporation with 10 breaches of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
These include five charges of failing to maintain a workplace that was safe and without risks to health, and five charges of failing to ensure that people other than its employees were not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from the conduct of its operations.
“As this matter is now before the court, it would be inappropriate to make any further comment at this time,” WorkSafe said in a statement. The charges are before Melbourne’s magistrates court.
WorkSafe said no action would be taken against the Country Fire Authority, the Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board or the fire services commissioner in relation to risks to firefighters from exposure to carbon monoxide and contaminated water during the early stages of the coalmine fire.
“After a review of all the available evidence, WorkSafe has determined that each party took steps that were reasonably practicable to protect the health and safety of their employees and others,” WorkSafe said.
The parent company of the Hazelwood Fire Corporation is GDF Suez. In September 2014, a report from the Hazelwood Mine Fire inquiry found the fire was entirely foreseeable, could have been put out more quickly and its impact greatly reduced if GDF Suez had not taken a “minimal compliance” attitude towards fire risk.
The Victorian Labor government reopened the inquiry into the fire after being elected in Novermber 2014, to investigate whether the fire contributed to an increase in deaths in the Latrobe Valley.
The findings, tabled to parliament in December, found it was likely there was an increase in deaths in the Latrobe Valley between February and June 2014, compared with the same period during 2009-2013, and that legitimate community concerns about the impact of the fire on their health had been wrongly dismissed.