WA watchdog cracking down on mine safety

Western Australia’s resources regulatory body is cracking down on injuries and ‘near misses’ in the Midwest mining sector after two incidents at Karara mine in the past couple of months.

While acknowledging there had been no mining fatalities in the Midwest for almost the last five years, the Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) Resources Safety executive director Simon Ridge said the recent incidents troubled him.

Last year was fatality-free for WA but a worker was seriously injured at Karara mine on May 25.

“DMP is investigating the matter, including whether the correct tools and proper procedures were followed to remove a spreader bar from an iron ore screen box at the mine’s processing plant,” Ridge said in a statement.

The worker was purportedly hit on the face by a tool resulting in mouth fractures, lip lacerations and a broken tooth.

There was a ‘near-miss’ event at Karara mine in April when an 80-tonne crane collapsed during load testing, dropping the load near four workers.

“It is unsettling and disappointing that these incidents have occurred, so it is up to my inspectors to get to the root cause,” Ridge said.

Karara Mining is a joint venture between Gindalbie Metals and Anshan Iron and Steel Group Corporation, or Ansteel.

Spokesman for Gindalbie Metals Michael Weir would not comment on individual incidents but emphasised Karara mine has an exceptional safety record.

“We don’t fear an increase on scrutiny in safety because we have an exceptional record,” he told Australian Mining.

“Karara has a twelve-month rolling loss time injury frequency rate of 0.71 and that compares to the industry averages as published by WorkSafe of 14.1 for construction and 3.1 for mining.”

Weir added the loss time injury frequency rates at the Karara export terminal is zero.

The DMP said 49 workers suffered injuries at Midwest mines in the past year, with 10 serious injuries and 258 ‘near misses’ reported.

Ridge said human error and distraction caused some mining incidents while others were due to operators with poor safety cultures.

“I strongly urge all managers to ensure mining workers aren’t placed in harm’s way, and I urge mining workers to remain careful and follow procedures,” he said.

DMP is also cracking down on mines safety in the Goldfields following two serious injuries at St Ives mining operations in the past two weeks.    

Ridge said safety in the mining industry was the department’s top priority.

“The important thing to remember is most companies and workers are doing the right thing – attitudes to mines safety are improving across WA,” he said.

“In fact, WA’s lost time injury frequency rate has decreased by 50 per cent in the past decade.

“However, as with anything in life, you can’t eliminate risk but you can work to mitigate it, and that’s what workers and managers need to be doing at all times.”

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.