Western Australia’s Minister for Mines and Petroleum Norman Moore has ordered BHP Billiton to stop work on the sites that have been issued with breach of practice notices.
12 such notices have been issued to BHP in the past two weeks.
The move comes in the wake of the March 19 directive of WA State Mining Engineer Martin Knee to mines inspectors to no longer issue improvement notices, but instead issue prohibition notices for breaches of safety conditions on BHP sites.
There have been five deaths in the past eight months at BHP iron ore operations in the Pilbara.
“My advice is that BHP has received 12 prohibition notices since the State Mining Engineer used his discretionary powers to direct inspectors to issue prohibition orders rather than improvement notices about a fortnight ago,” Moore said.
In addition to the 12 sites issued with notices, BHP will also stop all non-essential night shift work across its Pilbara operations.
“In recent talks with BHP, I was given assurances by senior executives that they supported the State Government’s action and would co-operate to address this alarming and unacceptable situation,” Moore said.
Yesterday, BHP Billiton Iron Ore president Ian Ashby apologised to all of those who had been affected by the recent spate of accidents.
“We are deeply saddened by the deaths within our Western Australia Iron Ore business and we are doing everything we can to identify the causes and take action to prevent further tragedies,” Ashby said.
An extensive, independent investigation into the safety systems at the company’s Western Australia Iron Ore operations is currently underway.
The independent review is being conducted under Section 45 of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act.
The review commenced in October 2008 and is due to be completed and presented to the State Mining Engineer by 30 April this year.