Claims of safety breaches by Kimberley Diamonds

A former employee of the recently closed Ellendale Diamond Mine has spoken out with allegations that safety standards were ignored during the final weeks.

Crane driver Gary Clements told the ABC in a radio interview that hazard ID reports were not followed up in morning toolbox meetings during the last six weeks of the mine’s operations.

Clements said weekly scheduled maintenance was stopped, which allowed overhead conveyors to build up with material to form dangerous clumps which could fall on workers below.

“All the build-up on the overhead conveyor belts, we used to call them 'widow makers', the lumps of dirt that used to fall down, because if they hit you they'd kill you. This was all just left,” Clements said.

"We were still putting the hazard IDs in, but they weren't getting read out at the morning meetings like they usually were. No-one knew what was going on.

"At least if you knew what the hazard IDs were that were put in, that day you could go out and maybe rectify it…But they stopped all that."

Clements also said that workers from all trades pitched in to work their hardest on any task necessary to keep the mine going on reduced staff numbers, in hope the company would not halt operations.

“We all really pulled together, doing things we weren’t supposed to do like getting in on hoses up to your knees in mud and hosing stuff down, on shovels, this was fitters, boilermakers, I was a crane driver so I was out there too doing it,” he said.

“And then they turned around and did that to us. We thought we had a chance of keeping the mine open by them cutting the numbers and everyone really getting in and putting their full effort into it.”

Department of Mines and Petroleum inspected the Kimberly Diamonds-owned mine on two occasions this year, and issued five improvement notices, followed by two prohibition notices and four improvement notices on the second visit.

Clements alleged the mine manager hid a crane from the DMP inspectors as it was in a state of disrepair, and they would have prevented its use if inspected.

“They asked to look at one particular crane…the little Linmac [franna type] they wanted to have a look at that, but the mine manager said it wasn’t there any more,” he said.

“They hid it, they parked it up so that they couldn’t see it…this crane was in disrepair, it had the wrong tyres on it, and I’d been complaining for a long time.

“We have to do a start sheet every morning, and my top section would have anywhere between 10 to 12 faults with this crane.”

Kimberley Diamonds said in a written statement that Clements’ allegations were false, and that it was “not aware” a crane had been hidden from inspectors.

Until June 30 this year Ellendale produced up to half of the world's supply of yellow diamonds, after which the mine was put into voluntary administration.