Incident response unsatisfactory: minister

NEW laws may be needed to ensure an adequate level of co-operation from mine management and their contractors when mines inspectors investigate serious safety incidents, Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said.

NEW laws may be needed to ensure an adequate level of co-operation from mine management and their contractors when mines inspectors investigate serious safety incidents, Queensland Mines and Energy Minister Geoff Wilson said.

On 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.

Wilson said he requested a meeting with BHP Billiton Cannington and mining contractor EROC after reports that critical information was withheld from mines inspectors and police for a full 24 hours after the fatality.

A meeting was held with representatives from BHP Billiton Cannington on 24 January and with mining contractor EROC on 29 January.

Wilson said the level of co-operation by mining companies involved with the Mines Inspectorate at the time of the incident was unsatisfactory.

“After meeting with representatives of both companies involved, I remain concerned that there was an unacceptable delay in vital information being provided to the Mines Inspectorate,” Wilson said.

“Buck passing between mine management and the contractor over who was to blame for withholding information from mines inspectors is a very worrying development.

“When such a tragedy occurs, inspectors need to access the site, identify what happened and satisfy themselves there is no further danger of injury. They cannot do that efficiently if mine management and their contractors are unable or unwilling to provide basic information as quickly as possible.

“Both have a responsibility to ensure the investigators have enough information to do their work finding out why it happened and how such a tragedy can be avoided in the future.”

Wilson said he had asked the Mines Inspectorate to recommend what stronger powers were needed to ensure essential information is obtained in a timely way.

The Mines Inspectorate will provide its recommendations after full consideration of the information provided about this incident.

Wilson said the independent Mines Inspectorate would also provide a report into the fatal incident to the Coroner in due course.

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