109 workers at Aditya Birla's Nifty copper mine have accepted voluntary redundancies after a cave-in at the site has left operations suspended since March.
Operations at the east Pilbara mine had to be stopped after a cave-in on March 21, and 400 workers were stood down on indefinite unpaid leave.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum has recently granted permission to carry out a two-phase investigation into the cave-in, after issuing a notice prohibiting all mining operations at Nifty.
Aditya Birla is still working with the department to have the suspension notice lifted, and said it does not know when operations will resume.
The company said the 109 employees represented 26 per cent of its workforce, and would cost it $2.5 million in payouts.
It said the acceptance of the VRs would not “seriously undermine” the restart of the mine.
“The company has reviewed and presented the findings of Phase 2 probe drilling to the DMP and will interact with the DMP to progress the lifting of the prohibition notice,” Aditya Birla said in a statement.
“In the interim, a detailed mining schedule is being prepared to establish start up requirements. Critical start up constraints are being reviewed and addressed.”
Workers who were laid off are looking to sue the mining company, claiming Aditya should be held responsible for the wall collapse as it was a foreseeable risk and as such, argue workers should be getting paid.
"There was cracking going on in the mine which was not normal," one worker told the ABC.
"The warning signs were there."
The worker said management was warned about the potential risks.
Workers hope to raise enough money to take their case to the Far Work Commission after the Australian Workers' Union was unsuccessful in its bid to argue the employee’s case at a conference in May.