The entire Morwell mine fire was declared ‘safe’ last Tuesday following 45 days of intensive firefighting, bringing to an end one of the most challenging incidents we have experienced in GDF SUEZ Hazelwood’s 50 years of operation.

For the many men and women involved in this incident, for the Morwell and surrounding communities, the announcement by the Fire Services Commissioner had been a long time coming, and was most welcomed.

On behalf of the entire GDF SUEZ Australian Energy business I wish to record our heartiest congratulations and deepest appreciation of all those who contributed to this most demanding of mine fires. Thank you one and all.

We know only too well that the smoke from this fire has had an enormous impact on the Morwell and surrounding communities. As a significant member of this community – with many of our employees and contractors living locally – GDF SUEZ Hazelwood understands the inconvenience and concern the fire has caused. We sincerely appreciate the community’s patience while the essential fire suppression activity proceeded and we are now working with local representatives to determine how we can best contribute to recovery and revival programs.

From the time the fire spread into the mine on the afternoon of 9 February from what is believed to have been a deliberately lit bushfire, the response from Hazelwood personnel, contractors, the CFA, MFB and a multitude of other local and state government agencies has been nothing short of magnificent. All involved in the incident – from our personnel, our contractors, not for profit volunteer groups including the Red Cross, SES and St Johns Ambulance and firefighting agencies from across the country – have done an outstanding job to protect the mine, bringing the fire under control and making the mine again safe.

I would like to thank all of the contractors, agencies and individuals who worked not only on the fire itself but have assisted in dealing with the challenges facing our Morwell and Latrobe Valley communities.

The business community of Morwell and surrounds have come to our aid, being more than willing to loan or source items required or provide additional labour. The quick turnaround of requests ensured that we could get on with the job of fire suppression and extinguishing the fire.

From day one we knew that extinguishing this fire was going to be a tough slog and the resilience of our people throughout this incident shone through. I am proud to say that the protection of our people, plant and operations remained our prime focus along with reducing the environmental impacts on the community of southern Morwell by reducing the levels of smoke from the northern batters.

In total more than 20 000 CFA shifts were completed during the fire fight. Combined with our employees and contractors who worked a rotating 12 hour shift roster, there was a total of more than 300 000 man hours worked across the 45 days. The fact that the firefighting operation was completed, often in extremely trying conditions, with no serious safety incidents is of great credit to everyone involved.

Our Hazelwood operations personnel are also to be applauded for their efforts in maintaining coal winning and power generation operations throughout this difficult period. Apart from the first 24 hours when we lost power to the mine and therefore needed to reduce generation, Hazelwood has operated at its usual reliable level.

As we move into the final phase of this enormous firefighting operation, it is clear that there will be lessons to be learned for everyone involved. GDF SUEZ Australian Energy welcomes and will participate and co-operate fully with the independent inquiry to be headed by the Honourable Justice Bernard Teague.

For now though, as this fire incident draws to a close, we are focusing on recovering from the events of the past seven weeks.

It is also a time to reflect and acknowledge the wonderful support we have received from the broad range of organisations and individuals, who are represented on this page. There are others who don’t have links with formal organisations and we acknowledge their contribution too.

This has been a magnificent team effort. Thank you.


George Graham
Asset Manager
GDF SUEZ Hazelwood