Police say rock falls in an orepass are hampering efforts to recover Brett Kelly’s body from Mt Isa Mine.
The news comes as the search for Brett Kelly, 34, shifted on Friday from a rescue to a recovery mission, after he had been missing for more than three days.
Mount Isa Police Inspector Trevor Kidd said the orepass, where Kelly is believed to have fallen, is too hazardous to access.
The North West Star reports a bomb squad robot brought in from Townsville to help with the recovery mission proved unsuccessful as the orepass was too dark and the terrain too difficult for the machine to navigate.
The orepass is located one kilometre underground at the mine’s copper operations, and is believed to contain around 100 000 tonnes of pre-crushed rock, which is sent via conveyors for further crushing and processing.
Mining operations were halted when Kelly was reported missing at 3:30pm on Wednesday, however it is understood that he was last seen at 11:30am that day.
Kidd said it is highly likely Kelly’s body is trapped under massive amounts of rock.
“We don't believe he's on top of the ore face,'' Kidd said.
“You can stand on the edge and check the top of the ore face but it's very difficult.
“You can't just get down there and start sifting through it, so you only have a visual, and pieces of this pass are constantly falling in and breaking off.”
Kidd said the recovery team were trying to develop a plan which will allow it to search the orepass safely.
“We've had further discussions and we're looking at the best options,'' he said.
“We'd obviously like to start as soon as we can, but we have to ensure we have plans in place so we don't risk anyone's safety,” he explained.
Meanwhile, limited production at the underground copper mine has recommenced.
The area where Kelly was last seen, the Enterprise Mine, has been barricaded off.
A formal investigation has been launched into the circumstances surrounding Kelly’s disappearance.