Rio miner’s death undiscovered for 4 days

The death of a Rio Tinto employee that went undiscovered for almost four days after the man died in his donga in Western Australia’s North West has angered unions and support groups.

Tom Price police continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the 54-year-old truck driver from Albany, who is believed to have died from natural causes in his donga at the Brockman 4 permanent camp site late last month, The West Australian reported.

The FIFO drive-in, drive-out support group said the rising number of mine deaths that go unnoticed for days is concerning and it doesn’t know who is to blame for the delay in finding the man’s body.

One of the worst cases reported was in January 2011 when a worker at Woodside's Pluto liquefied natural gas project was not discovered for almost two weeks after he died in his donga at the site's Gap Ridge Village.

"It's really disturbing," group co-ordinator Kristian Italiano said.

 "It disgusts me to think that no one checked on this poor guy for four days."

The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union accused Rio Tinto of breeching its duty of care obligations.

CFMEU mining division secretary Gary Wood said Rio Tinto should have contacted the truck driver as soon as he failed to call in sick on the first day.

The Rio employee was last seen on site on Friday February 22 but management did not check the man’s donga until the following Tuesday after he missed his scheduled flight home, a Brockman 4 worker who wished not to be named said.

It is not clear why cleaners did not enter his room during this period, though it is possible he had a "do not disturb" sign on his door.

The West Australian reported that Kevin Lewis, Rio Tinto's head of organisation resources, did not respond to accusations about the firm's duty of care but confirmed that a worker had died in his donga.

"A 54-year-old man from the Great Southern region died in his room at the Brockman 4 camp," Lewis said in a statement.

"The time of death is also yet to be determined. We are assisting the appropriate authorities with their inquiries."

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