Media release

Hazelwood fire: Time for some answers

February 21, 2014


‘The fire in the Hazelwood coal mine is a major pollution and public health incident.  It’s time the local community around the mine and the Victorian public were given some answers as to how this has been allowed to happen.’ said Felicity Millner, Principal Lawyer with the Environment Defenders Office.

‘Yesterday the Latrobe Valley Express raised serious questions about the management of the mine by GDF Suez, and its regulatory oversight by the responsible government agencies. But the multiple agencies responsible for regulating the site are more interested in buck-passing than taking responsibility.  The local community and Victorian public deserve better.’

‘Coal mines are regulated under the Work Plan and Work Authority issued under the Victorian mining laws.   Administration of these laws is the responsibility of the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation and the Minister for Energy and Resources.’

‘With serious questions being raised about the rehabilitation of the site and the adequacy of risk management there, the public need to know:

  • Has GDF Suez complied with its Work Plan and Work Authority?
  • Has there been adequate monitoring of compliance by the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation?
  • Did the Work Plan and Authority cover the risks of fires starting in the mine? If not, why not?

‘EDO is calling on the Department to immediately release the Work Plan and any other documents that reveal how the site has been regulated.  The public has a right to this information under section 74 of the Mineral Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990.’

The government needs to a commit to a full independent public inquiry to thoroughly investigate how this major pollution incident was allowed to happen.  Major pollution incidents in the past, like the Brookland Greens methane gas leak and the Coode Island fire, have been the subject of independent inquiries.

The community of Morwell and the public of Victoria deserve answers. Nothing less than a commitment to a thorough independent inquiry will do.

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