Flood Repairs at Victorian Coal Mine to Cost Millions

By Henry Jom
Henry Jom
Henry Jom
July 5, 2021 Updated: July 5, 2021

Repair works at the Victoria’s Yallourn coal mine are expected to cost tens of millions of dollars as power company EnergyAustralia seeks to repair cracks caused by last month’s flood.

This comes as the Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority (EPA) approved the discharge of 232 megalitres of water from the Morwell River Diversion into the Latrobe River to ensure critical repairs be undertaken.

“The situation at Yallourn is now stable, but it remains critical that we find a long-term solution to protect the mine and ensure Victoria’s energy security,” Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change, Lily D’Ambrosio, said in a statement on June 30.

“As a temporary measure, today (June 30) EnergyAustralia has discharged water into the Latrobe River, which will free up storage on the Yallourn site in the event of more rain.”

Visible cracks have been found in the wall of the Morwell River Diversion, which came close to collapse when 30 times the standard volume of water rain ran through the wall during heavy rains in mid-June. According to EnergyAustralia, on June 11, the average daily flow rate swelled to about 17 gigalitres or about 6800 Olympic-size swimming pools.

All people were ordered to leave the mine on June 11, and equipment was removed as a precaution. Yallourn continued to run, but the output was cut to conserve coal.

The heavy rains prompted the Victorian government to declare an “energy emergency” on June 17 to divert the flood away from the Yallourn coal mine and power station.

In response, the chairman of EnergyAustralia had warned that the threat of a flood at the Yallourn power coal mine could disrupt almost a quarter of the state’s power supply for months, reported the Australian Financial Review.

Currently, EnergyAustralia is working to seal the cracks while it seeks long-term solutions to fix the damage.

“While the short-term water diversion measures will be good news, longer-term, the work of relieving pressure around the impacted area of the Morwell River Diversion (MRD) remains critical as this will allow us to conduct the damage assessment and pursue critical, more permanent repairs,” EnergyAustralia Executive, Liz Westcott, said in a statement.

“There is an enormous amount of geotechnical and engineering work that accompanies these proposals.”

While the repairs are expected to cost the power company tens of millions of dollars, customers would see a “negligible impact” on their power bills due to the situation at Yallourn, reported The Age.

Meanwhile, CFMEU’s Geoff Dyke, Victorian secretary of union’s mining and energy division, told The Age that cracks in the Morwell River diversion were up to 200 metres long and would be difficult to fix, which may cause the company to reconsider Yallourn’s closure date of 2028. But EnergyAustralia said it has no plans to change the closure date, reported The Age.

With three of the four power generating units at the Yallourn power station currently in operation, EnergyAustralia has managed to take pressure off the electricity grid in the early winter high-demand period, reported the Australian Financial Review.

Yallourn power station’s usual generation capacity is up to 1480 Mega Watts and typically supplies about 20 percent of Victoria’s electricity demand or eight percent of the National Electricity Market.

Henry Jom
Henry Jom