Two mining companies and a shift supervisor have copped $1.57 million in fines after a worker drove a loader into a massive underground hole and died amid lax safety procedures.
There were no safety barriers around the excavated void at West Australia’s Whirling Dervish underground gold mine in July 2020 because a supervisor removed them, the Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety said on Monday.
Emergency personnel were not able to attempt to rescue the man who could be seen lying outside the loader in the 25m-deep pit, known as a stope, due to the risk of a potentially deadly rock fall.
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The worker was employed by underground mining contractor Byrnecut Australia.
It was fined $850,000 plus costs of $4241 in the Perth Magistrate’s Court for failing to provide a safe working environment which caused the death of a worker.
The mine operator Saracen Gold Mines, which changed its name to Northern Star (Carosue Dam) after it merged with Northern Star Resources in February 2021, was fined $700,000 plus costs for engaging a contractor that failed to provide a safe working environment which caused the death of a worker.
Mine supervisor Arsen Korzhov’s duties included shift-by-shift safety inspections of all active workplaces under his control.
He removed a barricade and warning signs from the stope shortly before the fatally injured man started building a rock safety barrier around it.
He was fined $20,000 plus costs for not taking reasonable care of the safety of another person which caused the death of a worker.
All three pleaded guilty to their respective charges.
WorkSafe Chief Inspector of Mines Martin Ralph said the tragic incident should not have happened.
“All mining operations must have safe systems of work in place to protect workers from hazardous conditions,” he said.
“The death of any worker is one too many, and industry must learn from this tragedy.”
Ralph said several factors contributed to the fatal incident, about 120km northeast of Kalgoorlie.
“Northern Star and Byrnecut failed to complete the required job hazard analysis and neither company took steps to instigate a proper risk assessment for the task,” he said.
“There were (also) no physical barriers to prevent the loader entering the stope, nor were there effective wall markings to help the driver judge the distance to the open edge.”