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Southland Colliery Evacuated

24 December 2003

A serious problem has developed at the Southland Colliery. The mine’s gas monitoring equipment has detected abnormal gas levels in the mine. It appears that a mined-out area adjacent to the current SL4 longwall panel has developed a “heating” which indicates increased potential for spontaneous combustion of in-situ coal.

The mine’s Safety Management Plan has been followed and consequently all personnel evacuated from the mine.

Expert personnel and advisors, as well as the Mines Inspectorate and Union representatives, have been called to the mine to participate in the development of a plan to control the heating.

Management is already implementing actions to extinguish the heating. This may include drilling of a borehole from the surface and injecting an inert gas down the borehole to the point of the heating. This process would take at least one week and the mine would likely be idle for some weeks.

No persons will re-enter the mine until a safe working environment has been re-established. In the meantime, most production personnel have been requested to take available leave.

Customers are being advised and some shipments will need to be re-scheduled.

An expert working group has been assembled and the Company will provide further information in due course.

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    Last Modified: Monday, 29-Dec-2003 09:17:16 EST