Western Australian Minister for Mines and Petroleum Norman Moore yesterday announced changes to the mining industry’s safety regulations, following the death of an Alcoa contractor earlier in the morning.
The 50 year-old man from Mandurah died after falling down a shaft at the company’s Wagerup alumina refinery, 110 km south-east of Perth.
Department inspectors are still preparing a report into the circumstances leading up to the death for the State Coroner.
The Government intends to introduce a model used by the petroleum sector, the Petroleum Safety Case Regime, to the mining industry, Fairfax reports.
According to Moore, this program has been successful since it was introduced after the Piper Alpha North Seas explosion in 1988, which killed 167 men.
No deaths had occurred on WA oil rigs in the past two years, he said.
The scheme requires companies to assess their own safety risks and put in place their own management schemes to reduce the risks.
These are then fully audited by the Government.
The Government currently conducts all risk assessments and checks at mine sites at a cost of $18 million a year.
The State’s acting Shadow Mines and Petroleum Minister Fran Logan welcomed the plan.
“The recent Kenner review into the Mine Safety Inspection Act had shown the current number of government inspectors per capita of workers in the sector has fallen away from what other Australian jurisdictions require to manage safe mining operations,” he said.
“Based on comparisons with Queensland and New South Wales, at least 40 new inspectors are urgently required in Western Australia.”
Association for Mining and Exploration Companies (AMEC) national manager of policy Darren Brown also offered in-principle support for the move.
“The responsibility for worker safety needs to be shared between Government, industry and individual workers,” he said.
“AMEC generally supports the plan for individual mining companies to adopt a safety case framework, but will work hard to ensure the final requirements are practical and do not simply add to the already cumbersome approvals process.”
This was the sixth death on a WA mine this year, up from two in the previous year.
Moore said he was concerned that the mining industry was becoming complacent after this significant spike in mine-related deaths.
“Even one death, is one too many,” he said.