Report: APP CMHS Project 4

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2.1.1. History of Risk Management in the Mining Industry

2.1.1. History of Risk Management in the Mining Industry

Though not for as long as some other industries such as the nuclear industry, risk assessment has had a significant history in the Australian mining industry. The Australian industry has applied formal, systematic risk assessment more extensively than mining industries in other countries. With a history of over 10 years in many parts of the industry, there has been rapid growth in the use of the methodology.

In Australia, the mining industry began its movement towards risk-based management systems in the early 1990s. This followed a report on the implementation of Safety Systems Analysis techniques in the underground industry completed under the NERDDP research program. The progress of implementation within the mining industries across the states has varied and legislative requirements remain different. The major mining states of Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia have mining specific health and safety legislation. The mining industries in the remaining states and territories work under the general workplace health and safety legislation.

In Queensland, the revision of the existing Coal Mining Act 1925 and the development of new regulations started in 1991. For a period of time between August 1994 and February 1997 no work was undertaken on the Act and Regulation development whilst awaiting the findings of the inquiry following the Moura Number 2 coal mine explosion which killed 11 miners. The legislative review included amending rules to implement the key findings from the Moura inquiry. The legislative risk based approach requiring the implementation of Safety and Health Management Systems in Queensland was implemented in 2001 for both the coal and metalliferous sectors.

In 1996, the Gretley coal mine water inundation reinforced the drive for change in New South Wales. As a result, industry began using risk assessment methods to mitigate certain key hazards, e.g. fires, explosions, inundations, spontaneous combustions, etc.

In Western Australia, where the largest concentration of metal mining occurs, duty-of care legislation was enacted in 1994; however, risk management approaches saw less application until recently (CMEWA, 2003).

Most of these regulations require mines to perform some form of risk assessment on a regular basis to address the possibility of unwanted events such as spontaneous combustion, gas outbursts, explosions, air blasts, inundations and roof falls. Mine managers are generally expected to demonstrate competency in risk-based management systems through training either against the competencies outlined in the relevant Australian National Training Packages or an equivalent course.

Table 1 shows a summary of the process of recognition of the importance of risk management and the implementation as outlined by Professor Jim Joy from MISHC.

Table 1 Risk management in the Australian minerals industry



Late 1980s

Initial discussion of safety engineering approach lead to NERDDC study

Early 1990s

3 case studies completed related to risk assessments in mining including studies at Brimstone and Tahmoor Collieries in NSW.


NERDDC study completed

Early 1990s

Initial requirements from the Mines Inspectorate for risk assessments to be completed for major operations e.g. move from bord and pillar to longwall operation.

In 1990s there was a push from Inspectorate for original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to conduct design risk assessments for new equipment e.g. miner bolters.

There was also a push for operational risk assessments e.g. miner bolter needed a design risk assessment and then an operational risk assessment when it was used in the mine.

There was additional value perceived as coming from risk assessment but this was based on individual people or companies points of view.

South Bulli outburst and Ulan underground fire contributed to the recognition of the importance of risk assessments in New South Wales. Gretley inundation in 1996 further contributes to this thrust.


Moura disaster drove significant change in Queensland. Risk management moved from equipment design to increased importance and value. Moura, South Bulli and Ulan contributed to alignment of the State approaches but there was still a divergence in implementation.

Late 1990s

New legislation was developed in Queensland and New South Wales. These both required specific Major/Principal Hazard Management plans based on risk management principles.

Early 2000s

Legislation implemented in both Queensland and New South Wales.

Company approaches also required some form of broad systematic risk management approach.

Since 2005

Consolidation, simplification and better quality risk assessments and risk management approaches.

2.1.1. History of Risk Management in the Mining Industry

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