It was an action-packed morning at Whitehaven Coal’s Vickery mine recently as the company joined forces with the Gunnedah Local Emergency Management Committee to conduct a coordinated emergency exercise under the expert guidance of Whitehaven’s exercise facilitation team.

The simulated emergency event involved six months of planning and extensive consultation with teams from NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service, Fire & Rescue NSW (FRNSW), NSW State Emergency Service (SES) and NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS). Representatives from the NSW Resources Regulator and NSW Health were also in attendance to observe.

With the Vickery early mining project expected to produce first coal in the coming months, the purpose of the exercise was to test the Vickery Mine Emergency Plan and verify that the emergency management systems, processes and resources are effective ahead of production ramping up later in the year.

It was also an opportunity for the site team and emergency services to collaborate and test their ability to work together under the pressure of a simulated emergency event.

The exercise started about 9.30am, with a simulated ‘000’ call prompting teams from NSW Police, NSW Ambulance, NSW SES, NSW RFS and FRNSW to respond to the make shift scene that had been set up on site at Vickery – albeit without their lights and sirens blaring.

After several hours of responding to a range of emergency scenarios, the various emergency services teams and Whitehaven representatives gathered for a debrief over a barbecue lunch.

Whitehaven Coal managing director and CEO, Paul Flynn, said the simulated exercise was an important part of the mine’s emergency preparedness activities.

“The health and safety of our people, workplaces and the communities around us is always our first priority,” Mr Flynn said.

“Although we hope to never use them, we invest a lot of time and effort into our mine emergency plans across all of our operations to ensure we are prepared to respond in any circumstances. These plans are reviewed regularly but nothing compares to conducting these real-life simulations to test our systems and processes under pressure.

“It was an invaluable learning experience for our people and it also provided an opportunity for us to collaborate and build stronger partnerships with the local emergency services teams.

“At Vickery, we work closely with the Gunnedah Local Emergency Management Committee and we’re grateful for their involvement in today’s exercise. Our local emergency services are an integral part of the community and I’d like to thank them for their ongoing support.”

Principal – safety at Whitehaven, Andrew Denovan, health and safety advisor at Vickery, Shae Tonkin and health and safety superintendent at Gunnedah Open Cuts, Grant Phillips.

Chief Inspector Michael Wurth representing the Gunnedah Local Emergency Management Committee also praised the collaboration between Whitehaven and the emergency services teams.

“This exercise gave all of our emergency services agencies an opportunity to work together and learn from each other, as well as from the emergency and incident response teams at Whitehaven,” Chief Inspector Wurth added.

“This was a unique chance for us to apply our skills and procedures in the field, while also familiarising ourselves with the Vickery mine and the emergency processes Whitehaven has in place.

“It was a real team effort and a successful day. We’re pleased to work with local partners like Whitehaven to help us prepare so that we can deliver the best care possible for our community in times of need.”

More information on Whitehaven’s safety practices are available via the 2023 Sustainability Report at

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