Moura No. 4: anniversary of 1986 disaster

Published: 13 Jul 2017

Sunday commemorates the anniversary of a disaster at Moura No. 4 Mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin. On 16 July 1986 an explosion deep underground took the lives of 12 coal mineworkers.

On that day there had been 19 men working underground when the explosion claimed 12 lives in an instant. The seven survivors were able to help each other to the surface through clouds of dust and gas.

Recovery plans for the victims were postponed due to the dangerous prevailing conditions, where high gas levels and near zero visibility were encountered. The rescue team was eventually allowed to resume their heartbreaking task, to recover the victims - workmates, neighbours, comrades.

It left the community of Moura in shock. For the survivors it is a memory that does not fade. Bill Allison, who was a Check Inspector at the time, said at last year's 30 year anniversary:

“None of us will forget that morning of the 16th July 1986, it is forever etched in our minds. The friends and family we lost, that day. How could this happen?

Twenty men went down the mine that day, just an ordinary working day, nothing was happening that day to be concerned about. They said goodbye to their loved ones and went to work, just like any other day. Only eight returned.

We will never know for certain what happened that day, we know how that methane gas was distributed through the workings, but we will never know for certain the ignition source or the events that happened, just before the explosion occurred. Through the great work done by people like Dr Peter Golledge from SIMTARS, he found that under the right circumstances, such as the ones on that day, methane could be ignited outside the flame safety lamp. So because no other source of ignition could be found, then the enquiry into the disaster found that this was the most likely source of the ignition.

It was only as a result of the heroic efforts of the Mines rescue teams that we were able to recover the bodies, and establish what happened. It meant the families at least had a place where they could go to grieve, they knew what happened to them. Thanks to the Mines Rescue teams.”

The Mining Warden’s Inquiry which followed led to a number of changes to the Act and Regulations:

  • The banning of flame safety lamps from underground mines
  • The banning of aluminium alloys from use underground
  • Continuous gas monitoring from all sections of the mine
  • Readings of gas monitoring to be available on the surface
  • Compulsory safety induction training for all mineworkers
  • Secondary extraction plans to be developed and approved by the Mines Inspectorate

Queensland District President, Stephen Smyth, said "Safety is an issue on which the CFMEU does not compromise. We will never back down on safety. Every miner goes to work expecting to come home safely, not to die."

R.I.P.