Australian coal mine battles three-day blaze

SYDNEY — A major Australian coal mine battled on Wednesday to extinguish an underground gas fire that has been burning for three days following a “combustion event.”

The blaze erupted on Saturday when gas ignited at Anglo American’s Grosvenor Mine in the eastern state of Queensland, forcing the evacuation of all workers and a halt to production.

“The fire is still going and we are still working to safely seal up the last of the ventilation shafts using a variety of methods,” a spokeswoman for Anglo American told AFP.

“But we are very close.”

Anglo American said it was working with state health and safety authorities on the next steps to ensure a “safe restart” to the mine, which employs about 1,400 people.

The re-opening is likely to take “several months as a result of the likely damage underground,” it said in an earlier update.

The group said air quality had not been impacted.

“External health specialists have reassured us that, based on current information they have, there is no impact to community health,” it said.

The fire started when a “localized ignition” occurred at a site where coal is extracted in a long slice along a broad wall of the coal face, Anglo American said.

This resulted in “an underground combustion event.”

The Grosvenor mine, near the town of Moranbah, had been expected to produce more than a fifth of Anglo American’s overall forecast of 15-17 million tons of steel-making coal in 2024, the company said.

Anglo American was already under pressure to execute a restructuring plan that involves selling the steel-making coal assets, said RBC Capital Markets’ London-based analyst Marina Calero.

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