News & Media

Mine fire Q&As 28/2/14

Here are the latest answers to a lot of the questions & rumours that we've been hearing from the local community and on social media:

  • Is the fire burning underground?

The Hazelwood mine fire is not burning deep underground.

The fire is burning in a 3 km long section of disused mine face or wall, called a batter – it is burning mostly on, or just into, the batter.

Monitoring has shown the fire has burnt no more than a few metres into the mine face at its deepest point.

  • Can surface applications stop that fire burning deeper in the coal?

The use of water and foam will limit the spread of fire and extinguish much of it.

To extinguish some parts of this fire we will need to dig out the burning coal and douse it with water. This can only be done once those areas are cooled down and reduced in size using water and foam. This is a time consuming exercise.

  • Is there fire burning under the Princes Freeway?

No, there is not. Vic Roads have advised that there is no current threat to the freeway and they will continue to monitor the situation.

  • Could the fire burn for years? Can you entirely extinguish it so there is no burning coal? I’ve heard a few dates for when the fire could stop - is it 2 weeks or months?

Our aim is to get this fire completely extinguished or to the point that it poses no concern for the community in coming weeks. This time line is dependent on favourable weather and, if we get strong winds, we will have set-backs.

Some small pockets of coal might continue to burn longer-term and they will be managed by the mine, with support from emergency services, until they are out. If this occurs, it will not pose any threat to the community or the mine’s infrastructure.

  • Will it be contained? Will it stop producing smoke?

We have made considerable progress in reducing fire activity in the mine. The more we reduce the fire activity, the less smoke it will produce. We are also using compressed air foam to blanket the fire and reduce smoke while we extinguish the flames.

  • To-date, Australia has not had to put out a coal fire of this magnitude – are crews are overwhelmed by the magnitude and strength?

This fire is challenging but we are having success and we are confident our strategy is working. Our crews know they are making a difference.

We have taken advice from local, interstate and international experts and have also had them review our tactics and strategies to get the best outcome.

  • Could there be a landslip in the mine? Is the mine stable? What happens if the batters collapse/erode?

Geotechnical testing of the mine is being undertaken regularly and reviewed by independent experts.  

As such, we do not have significant concerns for the stability of the mine.

  • Who is being consulted about the fire?

We have taken advice from local, interstate and international experts and have also had them review our tactics and strategies.

  • Is it possible to flood the mine?

No, it is not. This tactic was used around 100 years ago when the mine was much smaller. Due to the current size of the mine, we have been advised that it would take many years for the water to reach the level required to extinguish the fire.

Flooding the mine would also halt production and shut down the Hazelwood Power Station which supplies around a quarter of Victoria’s electricity. We’re trying to prevent this from happening because the power station is critical to the state’s power supply.

Last Updated: 01 March 2014