Glencore sees coal mine safety fine doubled

Glencore’s Bulga coal mine has had a fine doubled on appeal after being convicted of breaching work safety conditions.

The miner has been slugged with a $100,000 fine after an incident where a worker was knocked unconscious and trapped, after it was judged the initial $50,000 was “manifestly inadequate”.

Last year Glencore was found guilty of safety breaches for the 2010 injuries of worker Scott Newsead and Steven McNab.

Scott Newstead was injured in August 2010 when he was struck by a falling slab of coal at the Beltana Longwall.

The NSW District Court heard Newstead did not have adequate training or information, which resulted in him standing under a section of unsupported roof.

The court also heard that a proper inspection would have revealed the risk of roof failure, information that could then have been communicated to the work crew.

McNab suffered severe injuries in April 2010 after he fell down and was crushed between the toe of an automatically advancing roof support and the side of a continuous armoured face conveyor.

McNab had no recollection of how the incident occurred, but the possibility of him having been struck in the head by flying rock was identified.

He was found semiconscious and pinned between the machinery, his helmet was off and his temple was freshly grazed, and a piece of roof stone was lying across his thigh.

Bulga pleaded not guilty to contravention of section 8(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2000.

The defense claimed the type of event that occurred was not foreseeable, and said there were no injuries of this type that had occurred in the experience of expert witness Peter Henderson, Beltana’s Mine and Electrical engineer since 2003.

Newstead’s case saw Bulga fined $75,000, and $50,000 for McNab’s case.

Now an appeal against the original judgement, and $50,000 penalty, has succeeded.

According to the original court documents, “The trial judge noted the submission by senior counsel for the appellant that it was a necessary element of the prosecution case to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the preventative measures pleaded would have absolutely eliminated the risk and that it was not enough to show particular measures would have mitigated the risk of an injury occurring.”

“The defendant [McNab] failed to mitigate the foreseeable risk by taking the reasonably practicable measure of employing the services of an additional miner in the crew, whose sole task was to observe the drum operators and stop the advancement of roof supports if the drum operator became disabled.”

In seeking a higher fine, the Attorneys General submitted that there was no evidence Glencore had ever expressed remorse for the incident, adding that “the trial judge appeared to have confused remorse for the consequences suffered by Mr McNab with remorse for the offence”, although the operations manager for Bulga Underground had, on his own behalf, expressed regret and remorse for the incident.

The AG fought for a resentencing, basing his grounds of appeal on the fact, “The costs order of his Honour had the effect of denying the prosecutor full costs for the sentencing proceedings and limited costs for those proceedings to only 20 per cent.”

As a result, the penalty has been doubled, with Glencore to now pay half of McNab’s costs.

Responding to the sentencing and increase in fines, Glencore stated it “accepts the Criminal Court of Appeal’s judgement on the incident in which Steve McNab was injured, as we did with the District Court findings relating to Scott Newstead”.

“The health and safety of our workforce is our foremost priority and we deeply regret both incidents,” a Glencore spokesperson told Australian Mining.

The miner went on to add, “Both employees received a high level of support after the respective incidents; in fact, Mr McNab continues to work at our Bulga Underground operations.”


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