Mining company fined $110,000 after rock fall

Tuesday, 14 January, 2020

Mining company fined $110,000 after rock fall

Gold mine operator Mandalay Resources Costerfield Operations has been convicted and fined $110,000 after pleading guilty to one charge for failing to maintain a working environment that was safe and without risks to employee health. The company was also ordered to pay $12,000 in costs.

The incident occurred when an employee was extending steel mesh lining into a new section of tunnel at the company’s Costerfield mine, 50 km south-east of Bendigo. A two-tonne piece of rock fell from the tunnel’s ceiling where the worker had just finished unbolting the leading edge of the existing steel mesh. The worker was 1.5 metres away, preparing to overlay new mesh and refasten the rock bolts, when the rock fall occurred.

An expert witness revealed that this method for installing steel mesh differed from standard industry practice. The employee has been unable to return to underground work since the accident, having sustained long-term mental injuries. The court also heard that it was reasonably practicable for Mandalay Resources to use a system of work that did not require the removal of rock bolts while installing new steel mesh.

“Every worker should be able to go to work without their life being put at risk because of poor systems of work that expose them to serious injury or death. Mines are a high-risk workplace and when incidents do occur they can leave workers physically and mentally scarred for life. Employers must ensure underground work is well planned and that the first priority is always the health and safety of workers,” said Julie Nielsen, WorkSafe Executive Director of Health and Safety.

Employers should ensure that ground supports are installed using recommended techniques and procedures, and that ground support activities are completed in line with planned ground support specifications and methodology. Employers are also reminded to complete geotechnical inspections and assessments for areas needing additional ground support, and routinely inspect active underground mine workings. Safety assessments should identify potential rock falls, enabling employers to provide regular rock fall and ground support information and training to employees. Employers are also advised to ensure that any work to be undertaken is planned.

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