An independent inquiry will determine what caused an underground gas explosion at a central Queensland coalmine that left four men fighting for life and another seriously injured.

The investigation into Anglo American’s operations at the Grosvenor Coal Mine in Moranbah will be headed by a former judge or Queen’s Counsel.

They will have the power to conduct public hearings, call witnesses and make findings in relation to Wednesday’s incident.

Four miners suffered extensive burns to their upper bodies and airways in the blast.

They were flown to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, where they remain in a critical condition.

The fifth man also injured in the blast is listed as stable.

Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham says while this is just the second gas explosion in more than 25 years, it is unacceptable.

In 1994, an incident at a site in Moura claimed the lives of 11 people.

Dr Lynham says the inquiry that followed changed mining safety across the state.

“This latest board of inquiry is an opportunity to continue this government’s sweeping reforms to protect mine workers,” he said on Monday.

A recent report found the state’s mining sector was in the grips of a “death cycle”, with more lives at risk without a safety overhaul.

The report reviewed the 47 deaths in the state’s mines and quarries from 2000 to 2019 and made a series of recommendations after finding most of the deaths were entirely preventable.

Dr Lynham said he expected to announce the members of the inquiry and terms of reference by the end of May, ahead of an immediate start.

An interim report is expected by August.

Meanwhile Anglo American conducted a staged re-entry of its Grosvenor Coal Mine on Sunday, so it could launch its own investigation into the incident.

Metallurgical coal business chief executive Tyler Mitchelson said the company would not resume mining until it was satisfied it knew what had happened and could stop it occurring again.