Two miners dead, two injured after wall collapses at Austar Coal Mine near Paxton





Rescue operation: Police at the scene. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

Two men have been killed and two injured after a Hunter Valley coal mine collapsed.

Emergency services were called to a deep underground longwall coal mine, located on Middle Road at Paxton at 9.15pm on Tuesday, following reports of a wall collapse at the site.

Officers have been told eight miners were working about 500 metres below the surface when the wall collapsed, two of whom became trapped.

Engineers and NSW Ambulance Paramedics attended the mine, which is about 10km south of Cessnock, to assist the two men; a 35-year-old man from Metford and a 49-year-old man from Cessnock.

Both men were pronounced dead about 12.15am on Wednesday.

A crime scene has been established, which will be examined by specialist forensic officers.All mining production has ceased at the sight pending further investigations.

Police are preparing a report for the Coroner on the death of the two men during the mine collapse and are also continuing their inquiries into the incident.

Earlier a major rescue operation was launched following reports two miners were unaccounted for after the collapse.

At 9.30pm six ambulances were on scene and an air ambulance was on standby.

Police Rescue, Fire and Rescue NSW, the Vehicle Rescue Association and the Mining Rescue Squad were also in attendance.

"A Westpac Rescue Helicopter has arrived and paramedics are preparing to go underground," an Ambulance media spokeswoman said.

"I can only say two people are injured at this stage."

The mine has previously made headlines over an emergency.

Fairfax reported in October 2004 that an underground fire crippled the ageing mine, forcing owner Gympie Gold into receivership.

The underground mine was subsequently sold to Yancoal, who re-opened the mothballed site in 2006.

According to the Austar Coal website, the underground mine produces premium semi-hard coking coal from a seam ''typically 4.8 to 6.5 metres thick''.

The re-opened site has used a mining technique known as longwall top-coal caving, which Austar describes as the first system of its type in Australia.

"Austar Coal Mine's parent company is acknowledged as being one of the safest and most productive users of this technique in the world,'' the company said.

Yancoal says the mine employs 409 staff including contractors work at the mine formerly known as Southland.

In June last year, Austar extended its operations east under an approval to re-orient its longwall panels. More from The Newcastle Herald

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