Miner’s death sends shockwaves through the industry

The identity of a worker killed in action on Wednesday night at Fortescue Metals Group’s Christmas Creek operation in Western Australia has been revealed.

Kurt Williams, 24, was crushed to death at about 8pm WST while carrying out maintenance work on a large motor in FMG’s crushing plant.

Stuff.co.nz reports the deceased was a New Zealand born electrician who “was so safety-conscious his death has stunned his former boss”.

Former boss Barry Martin told Fairfax Media Williams was not one to take risks.

"He was very aware, not a dummy. He was quite a switched-on guy, I struggle to see how this has happened," he said.

"He'd be one of the last people you'd think this would happen to."

Williams set off to Australia in search of mining’s big salaries early last year, Martin said.

He added an electrician could earn more than $AU100,000 working in WA’s mines.

"It's a tragedy … just a good person, that's all. A good bloke," Martin said.

Employed by Crushing Services International (CSI), Williams is the latest contractor to be killed on an Australian mine site.

Electrical Trades Union WA secretary Les McLaughlan said the union had previously flagged concerns about the kind of work Williams was undertaking, and in more general terms, concerns around CSI’s safety practices, stuff.co.nz reports.

"This man's death is a tragedy and we believe it may have been prevented if CSI had listened to our concerns about its safety practices," he said.

"Working on live equipment is inherently dangerous. What we need to know is whether the company took any extra safety precautions after we raised these concerns."

McLaughlan said Williams’ death also highlights the danger of working alone at night.

In an ASX statement CSI’s parent company Mineral Resources said the relevant mine safety authorities have been notified and the company is assisting investigations into the incident.

In February the Western Australian mining industry celebrated its first death free year in more than a century.

Former WA mines minister Norman Moore at the time said the achievement was due to massive industry wide efforts and government reforms.

Despite achieving the milestone, Moore warned against the industry taking its eye off the ball.

"The mining industry is a dangerous business, and while you aim for that (zero fatalities) I never thought we would achieve it and I am absolutely over the moon that we have," Moore said.

"But you can never ever in this industry rest on your laurels and . . . you will only be able to keep it like that if everyone keeps their eyes on the ball and mines work on the basis that safety comes first."

Federal resources minister Gary Gray yesterday said the death was sad.

"We went nearly two years without a mine-site death the longest period in the mining history of Western Australia," he told a mining conference in Perth.

"Our industry will feel grief and sadness for the family."

The last mine fatality recorded in WA was on August 16, 2011, when Brent David Glew was killed while carrying out maintenance on a hydraulic cylinder of a front-end loader at Rio Tinto's Brockman 2 site.

Mining and processing operations at Christmas Creek were suspended on Wednesday night.

Fortescue operations director David Woodall said the company is "deeply saddened".

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the worker's loved ones at this time,'' Woodall said in an ASX statement.

 

CSI’s parent company Minerals Resources was not available for further comment at the time of publication.

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