Media release

Hazelwood fire deaths: Community group launches bid for coronial inquest

October 29, 2014

Environmental Justice Australia is representing Latrobe Valley community group Voices of the Valley to formally push for a coronial inquiry into February’s Hazelwood coal mine fire.

“The recent Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry had to work fast to meet its deadline for reporting. The data on the spike in deaths caused by the mine fire was not available before the Inquiry concluded. Questions remain about whether the fire caused deaths.” said Nicola Rivers, Director of Advocacy and Research at Environmental Justice Australia.

“The government doesn’t seem to think there is any problem here. A thorough, independent review is what the  people of the Latrobe Valley need if they are to get justice, and a coronial inquiry can do that.” she continued.  “Our client believes there is strong evidence that a spike in deaths in the Latrobe Valley was caused directly by pollution from the coal mine fire.”

“Scientific studies have shown that short term exposure to air pollution like that from the mine fire can result in medical conditions such as heart attack, stroke, asthma and, in severe cases, death.” she added. (source)

“The coroner has the power to investigate fires. In this case, recommendations from the coroner could help improve the reaction of governments, state agencies and private companies, so that ordinary people are protected from the effects of toxic air pollution from mining operations.” she concluded.

“The people of the Latrobe Valley were badly let down by the authorities who were supposed to protect us.” said Ron Ipsen, spokesperson for community group Voices of the Valley.

“We didn’t know whether to evacuate or stay. Air monitoring was disgracefully inadequate, and even when emergency monitoring began there was confusion as to what the levels meant or what we should do as a result.” he added.

“We know there has been a spike in deaths in the area around the mine fire, and we believe the fire was to blame. A coronial inquiry can properly investigate this issue and give us the protection we deserve.” he concluded.

More information: Media brief: Hazelwood Mine Fire Inquiry Coronial Inquest


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