BHP under fire over death investigation
QUEENSLAND Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson has demanded an explanation from mining companies involved in a fatal incident recently after reports that critical information was withheld from mines inspectors and police for a full 24 hours.
Last Thursday (17 January), a 51-year old employee of a mining contractor was killed underground at the BHP Billiton Cannington mine site, south-east of Mount Isa.
“I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends at this time,” Wilson said.
“I want to reassure them that the Mines Inspectorate will fully investigate the matter and report to the Coroner.”
The Minister met with representatives from BHP Billiton Cannington on 25 January and a meeting will be held with mining contractors EROC.
“My Department has advised that mines investigators were prevented from accessing the scene of the fatal incident and speaking to witnesses and other employees for a full 24 hours after the incident occurred,” Wilson said.
“After receiving advice from my Department about what happened, and after meeting with representatives of BHP Billiton, I remain concerned that there was an unacceptable delay in vital information being provided to the Mines Inspectorate.
“When a tragedy like this occurs, it is the mining company’s and contractor’s responsibility to ensure the investigators have enough information to do their work finding out why it happened and how similar incidents can be avoided in the future. In this case, that didn’t happen.
“There is no excuse when those in control of a mining site fail to provide the basic particulars of a fatal incident at the mine for more than 24 hours.
“I have asked the Mines Inspectorate to recommend to me what stronger powers are needed to ensure that they get the information they need in a timely way.
“If the Inspectorate tells me it needs tougher powers, they’ll get them.
“We want to make sure the Mines Inspectorate is able to respond immediately and appropriately and that there’s no obstacles to them doing so.”
Wilson said the independent Mines Inspectorate would provide details of its investigations into the fatal incident to the Coroner in due course.