Hundreds of miners underground at time of explosion
CFMEU mining and energy president Stephen Smyth says he gets chills thinking of how close the Moranbah mine explosion came to being a catastrophic loss of life.
Four miners are today fighting for their lives after a major explosion at Anglo American's Grosvenor Mine near Moranbah about 3.15pm on Wednesday in one of the biggest accidents to rock the industry in recent years.
"I hate to use the word 'they dodged a bullet' - the five workers haven't clearly - but certainly other workers have," he told the Today Show.
"It's just terrible and tragic and our thoughts and prayers go to the family and friends of these workers."
Mr Smyth said the explosion had the potential to kill many people and heavily damage the mine site.
He said an "ignition in the tailgate area" of the mine site caused the explosion.
"It's caused some horrific injuries to these workers and at this stage that will be a part of the investigation - to get to the bottom of what has caused this terrible, terrible incident.
"There were literally hundreds working underground yesterday.
"Dayshift is the most popular shift, and with the work going on it could have potentially caused catastrophic loss of life and damage to that mine."
Mr Smyth said it "put chills up your back" thinking about what could've happened at the mine site.
He called the incident "totally unacceptable and avoidable".
"Being an underground coal worker myself, I can just imagine what these poor bastards went through with this particular incident," he said.
"And then there's the ripple effect through that mine and the mining communities of Queensland.
"Everyone feels it and everyone thinks about how it could've been them and how it could've affected their lives."
Anglo American chief executive of its Metallurgical Coal business, Tyler Mitchelson, this morning said an expert technical investigation would begin once it was safe to return underground.
"We will then work with our regulators and other stakeholders to ensure this type of incident never happens again," he said.
"We are all devastated and we don't yet understand what caused this incident.
"I would like to sincerely thank the first responders, mines rescue teams and all of the medical personnel involved in helping the injured people."
Mr Mitchelson said their focus right now was supporting their injured colleagues and their families.
"Our team is doing everything they can to provide support," he said.
Originally published as Inside mine explosion: 'It was so close to catastrophic loss of life'