TIME STOOD STILL: Smoke and dust billowing from the Moura No2 mine entrance after a second underground explosion signalled the end of any attempt to reach 11 miners who were trapped by an explosion on the night of August 7, 1994. Photo dated August 9, 1994. INSET: An estimated 4500 people paid their respects to the 11 men killed in the latest Moura Mine disaster. Photo dated August 13, 1994.
TIME STOOD STILL: Smoke and dust billowing from the Moura No2 mine entrance after a second underground explosion signalled the end of any attempt to reach 11 miners who were trapped by an explosion on the night of August 7, 1994. Photo dated August 9, 1994. INSET: An estimated 4500 people paid their respects to the 11 men killed in the latest Moura Mine disaster. Photo dated August 13, 1994. ROK121214archivemoura1

Mine disaster: Remembering the men lost in CQ's worst days

LAST Wednesday marked the anniversary of the third disaster at Moura mine.

On August 7, 1994, there was an explosion at the Moura no.2 mine. Eleven miners were not accounted for and to this day, their bodies were never found.

This explosion was the third one for the town.

The first occurred at Kianga Mine on September 20, 1975. It was found to be initiated by spontaneous combustion, killing 13 men.

The mine was sealed and the bodies of the men were never recovered.

The second disaster was on July 16, 1986 at Moura no.4 mine. Twelve miners died from an explosion believed to be initiated by one of two possible sources, namely frictional ignition or a flame safety lamp.

The bodies of the miners, in this case, were recovered.

Relatives and friends drew strength and comfort from each other after Moura's memorial service. Photo dated 22 August 1994.
Relatives and friends drew strength and comfort from each other after Moura's memorial service. Photo dated 22 August 1994. ROK121214archivemoura8

Moura resident from 1970 to 2005 and Kianga mine worker Garth Walsh remembers those days.

"I won't forget the three of them,” he said.

Mr Walsh was also president of the CFMEU union in Moura at the time and in the mines rescue team.

He wasn't involved in the rescues for the disasters as special rescue teams, trained in underground mines, came from Collinsville and Blackwater.

The third one was an unbelievable shock.

"It was not real good, it was very scary,” Mr Walsh said. "We knew being a miner once there was an explosion at no.2 and then there was a second one there was very little hope.

"No. 4 was when they got to find the bodies.

Historic: Mining - Moura Mine Disaster August 1994.   Caption Reads: Clergy of several denominations gave prayer and words of comfort.   Photo dated 13 August 1994.   Photo: The Morning Bulletin Archives
Historic: Mining - Moura Mine Disaster August 1994. Caption Reads: Clergy of several denominations gave prayer and words of comfort. Photo dated 13 August 1994. Photo: The Morning Bulletin Archives ROK121214archivemoura7

"The last one in no.2, I think it's a lot harder not being able to get their men or sons out to pay their last respects.”

There were inquiries and reports into each disaster and it shocked everyone when another hit.

"I don't think anyone could have realised that would have happened,” Mr Walsh said.

"If they would have, there would be no one in the mine.”

The dates of each disaster don't pass Mr Walsh, he reflects on them from his Gracemere home.

"Sometimes it is best to remember them personally; I know I will never forget them.”

A number of the lives lost were Mr Walsh's friends and members of CFMEU.

But it's not just the disasters where people were killed.

Historic: Mining - Moura Mine Disaster August 1994.   Caption Reads: An estimated 4500 people paid their respects to the 11 men killed in the latest Moura Mine disaster.   Photo dated 13 August 1994.   Photo: The Morning Bulletin Archives
Historic: Mining - Moura Mine Disaster August 1994. Caption Reads: An estimated 4500 people paid their respects to the 11 men killed in the latest Moura Mine disaster. Photo dated 13 August 1994. Photo: The Morning Bulletin Archives ROK121214archivemoura3

Since the commencement of the open cut mine in 1961, 49 miners have killed; 36 were from disasters and 13 have been from separate single incidents.

Mr Walsh is proud to be seeing the Moura Miners Memorial going ahead.

The memorial, which is planned to be opened on November 10, will honour all those lives lost.

READ HERE: Open date for site revealed for CQ miners memorial

"There is a lot of people who died prior to those three disasters and there is a memorial for Kianga and Moura but not the individual ones,” he said.

"This is good for that.

"It will give a closure of all the men who died.”

Mr Walsh couldn't say if Moura as a town ever got over the loss of so many of their people, but he knows he will always personally remember it.

Mining equipment stands idle at Moura mine on Saturday after the mine closed down for 24 hours from 3pm on Friday following the death of two workmen on Friday morning. Photo dated 03 Jan 1994.
Mining equipment stands idle at Moura mine on Saturday after the mine closed down for 24 hours from 3pm on Friday following the death of two workmen on Friday morning. Photo dated 03 Jan 1994. ROK121214archivemoura2

"I hope there is never another one,” he said.

"It not only ruins a township it ruins a lot of people's lives.

"I think there is a lot of older ones like myself who still realise what happened.

"You never forget it.”

LOST VICTIMS:

  • John Robert Dullahide: Beltman
  • Terry Gordon Vivian: Miner
  • Robert Parker: Contractor
  • Darrell William Hogarth: Miner
  • David Brian King: Miner
  • Mark Reginald Nelson: Miner
  • Christopher Robert Ritchie: Miner
  • Michael Edward Ryan: Miner
  • Michael Edward Shaw: Miner
  • Robert Allan Newton: Deputy
  • Geoffrey Mazzer: Electrician

This information has been taken from the Wardens Inquiry, conducted pursuant to section 74 of the Coal Mining Act 1925, report on the accident at Moura No.2 underground mine on August 7, 1994.

ABOUT 2335 hours on Sunday, August 7, 1994, an explosion occurred in the Moura No.2 underground coal mine.

There were 21 people working underground at the time. Ten men from the northern area of the mine escaped within 30 minutes of the explosion but 11 from the southern area failed to return to the surface.

Those who failed to return comprised a crew of eight working in the 5 South section of the mine undertaking first workings for pillar development and three others - a belt man and a sealing contractor with an assisting miner - who were deployed in the southern side of the mine.

A second and more violent explosion occurred at 1220 hours on Tuesday, August 9, 1994.

Rescue and recovery attempts were thereafter abandoned and the mine sealed at the surface.

Pursuant to Section 74 of the Coal Mining Act 1925 an inquiry was held before the mining warden and a panel of four others.

The inquiry found the first explosion originated in the 512 Panel of the mine and resulted from a failure to recognise and effectively treat a heating of coal in that panel. This in turn ignited methane gas, which had accumulated within the panel after it was sealed.

The inquiry did not reach a finding regarding the cause of the second explosion.

While the inquiry found that the 11 people who failed to return to the surface died in the mine as a direct or indirect result of the first explosion, no definite finding could be made regarding the precise cause of death of any of the victims.

The inquiry made a number of recommendations aimed at preventing a similar incident.

It also identified a number of areas where there was a need for investigation and improvement to assist in securing the safety of coal mining industry employees.


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