A massive fire burning at Anglo American’s Grosvenor underground coal mine in central Queensland highlights how dangerous coal – and especially associated methane gas – is to workers, community health and the climate, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

The coal mine fire has been belching clouds of black smoke from the coal mine near Moranbah after methane gas ignited on the longwall coalface on Saturday morning.

Emergency services have advised people to stay indoors and avoid breathing the smoke.

“This fire is releasing a huge volume of climate polluting toxic smoke directly into the atmosphere,” said ACF’s methane campaigner Piper Rollins.

“This is nothing short of an environmental disaster.

“Thankfully no one was killed or injured when the methane ignited.

“This incident highlights the risks of coal mining and in particular the risks of potent methane gas, which presents a danger to workers, community health and the climate.

“Methane is a toxic climate-heating gas that is 86 times more potent than carbon dioxide and is turbocharging heatwaves, bushfires and coral bleaching events.

“Satellites recorded 22 methane plumes recorded over Queensland in June alone.

“All of these plumes were close to fossil fuel sites, many near open-cut coal mines that can avoid accountability for emissions blow-outs because Australia’s existing scheme doesn’t require that they be reported.

“If the federal government and coal and gas mine operators don’t do more to tackle Australia’s methane problem, we will continue to see avoidable climate disasters like this.

“We urge Climate and Energy Minister Chris Bowen to make it mandatory for all coal and gas facilities to accurately measure and publicly report their emissions, or risk paving the way for Australia’s methane underreporting problem to get even worse.”

The Albanese government is reviewing the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Scheme (NGERS) and is due to respond to the Climate Change Authority’s 2023 NGERS review recommendations.

Anglo American’s Grosvenor coal mine is one of Australia’s top 10 emitting coal. It reported nearly a million tonnes of climate pollution in the most recent reporting period. Five mine workers suffered extensive burns after a methane explosion at the Grosvenor mine in 2020.

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