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Yallourn power station evacuates mine due to potential flooding in Victoria's Latrobe Valley

Saturday June 12, 2021 - 01:48 AEST
ABC image
Everyone has been asked to leave Yallourn power station's brown coal mine as a precaution after heavy rain. - ABC

In Gippsland's Latrobe Valley, Yallourn power station's brown coal mine has been evacuated and electricity generation has been reduced as operator Energy Australia monitors local floods.


Everyone has been asked to leave the mine and equipment has been removed.


The Yallourn power station continues to run but generation output has been lowered to maintain coal while the flood situation is monitored.


"We've temporarily paused production at the Yallourn mine as a precautionary measure, following heavy rainfall across the region," Energy Australia head of Yallourn Julian Tureck said in a statement.


"At Energy Australia, safety is our highest priority. As a precaution, all people were asked to leave the mine operations.


"The power station generation output is being maintained at an appropriate level to help conserve coal and we have updated the Australian Energy Market Operator.


"Coal production will resume at our mine when it?s safe and appropriate to do so.


"We appreciate the community?s interest in our operations and we commit to providing further updates as the situation evolves.


"With many homes and businesses affected by rain and flooding across the Latrobe Valley and Victoria, our thoughts are with those members of the community who have been impacted by this severe weather event."


Energy Australia has shut down all bar one generating unit at the Yallourn power station overnight.


The Latrobe River runs to the north of the Yallourn power station and the Morwell River flows to the east of the mine.


In 2012 the Latrobe River entered the mine, shutting it for weeks.


Union warning 


A Gippsland union leader has warned there's not a lot of coal stockpiled if the Yallourn mine stays on lower production for a long period.


Gippsland Trades and Labour Council secretary Steve Dodd said he understod there was "enough coal in the bunker for probably about three days".


He said Yallourn workers were ordered to leave the mine site about 1:00pm on Friday because water was coming into the mine from the river diversion.


The Yallourn power station is currently operating at about 20 per cent of its capacity.


Power supply 'sufficient to meet demand'


The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) spokeswoman Samantha Potts said there was no supply problem for the state.


"AEMO can confirm that power supply is sufficient to meet demand in all national energy market regions, including Victoria, and that system security is currently not at risk.


"Victoria currently has a strong reserves position, and AEMO forecasts show no foreseeable reserves issues in coming days," she said.


Mr Dodd is also concerned if the floodwater does break in, like it did in 2012, it could bring forward the closure of the mine, which employs 500 workers.


In March, Energy Australia announced Yallourn would close in mid-2028 ? four years earlier than planned.


Flood warnings in place for Latrobe Valley creeks, rivers


Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester said the evacuation of the mine was worrying. 


"There is a concern about the amount of water in the mine itself and so obviously safety comes first," he said.


"The mine has ceased production in terms of getting the coal to the power station itself.


"That's going to have an impact on production capacity in Victoria. It puts a lot more pressure on Loy Yang which will be meeting the demands across Victoria and south-east Australia at the moment.


"Hopefully we'll get a break in the weather and the amount of water in the landscape will be reduced and we'll get a chance to get on top of the problems Yallourn might be facing."


Latrobe Valley catchments received a further 20-40 millimetres of rain overnight, with a major flood warning current for the Traralgon Creek. There's also a moderate flood warning in place for the Latrobe River.


Earlier this week storms and flash flooding damaged power infrastructure, with more than 65,000 Victorian homes, businesses and farms without power.


For some residents it is their third day without power.


Poowong dairy farmer Andrew told ABC Gippsland he was relying on a generator to power his dairy and milk his cows.


"We bought a generator about six years ago when they were talking about the power getting a bit dodgy," he said.


"It's big enough to run the dairy, all the lights and the pumps. I love my generator. I loved it when I bought it and I've loved it for the last three days."


Andrew said the cows were getting milked, but there was no power at his home.


"It's a bit like camping inside. I've got two young boys and we've had the mega bed set up in front of the [wood-fired] combustion oven."







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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