The Hazelwood Coal Mine Fire: Lessons from Crisis Miscommunication and Misunderstanding


  • Jim Macnamara University of Technology Sydney


natural disaster, emergency, crisis communication, emergency communication, public relations


When a bushfire ignited the Hazelwood coal mine in the Latrobe Valley 150 kilometers (95 miles) east of Melbourne, Australia, in 2014 and burned for 45 days sending toxic smoke and ash over the adjoining town of Morwell, crisis communication was required by the mine company, health and environment authorities, and the local city council. What ensued exposed major failures in communication, which resulted in widespread community anger and a Board of Inquiry. This critical analysis examines public communication during the crisis and the subsequent clean-up, and it reports several key findings that inform crisis communication theory and practice.