Ven­ti­la­tion blamed for mine death

Pilbara News - - News - Ali­cia Perera

North­ern Star Re­sources has been fined $90,000 for fail­ing to take mea­sures to pre­vent haz­ardous lev­els of heat which con­trib­uted to the death of a con­trac­tor at a Pil­bara un­der­ground gold mine in 2015.

The gold min­ing com­pany was charged with fail­ing to take prac­ti­ca­ble mea­sures to en­sure workers at the mine were not ex­posed to haz­ards un­der the WA Mines Safety and In­spec­tion Act, stem­ming from the death of a 28 year-old jumbo off­sider work­ing at its Paulsens Gold Mine about 180km west of Parabur­doo on Novem­ber 16, 2015.

The case was be­fore Kar­ratha Mag­is­trate’s Court last Thurs­day for sen­tenc­ing af­ter North­ern Star Re­sources had pre­vi­ously pleaded guilty to the charge.

A De­part­ment of Mines and Petroleum in­ves­ti­ga­tion had pre­vi­ously found the man had been work­ing un­der­ground in hot and hu­mid con­di­tions and col­lapsed from heat ex­haus­tion.

On Thurs­day DMP prose­cu­tor Me­lanie Smith told the court the mine’s ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem had not been prop­erly main­tained and its work­ing in ad­verse con­di­tions pro­ce­dures, which re­quired stop­ping work or rest­ing, had not been prop­erly fol­lowed, de­spite a tem­per­a­ture read­ing hav­ing been taken that day, be­fore to the in­ci­dent.

Ms Smith de­scribed the case as “se­ri­ous” be­cause heat stress was a well-known haz­ard on mine sites, its con­se­quences se­ri­ous, and mea­sures were avail­able to mit­i­gate it. She called on the court to im­pose a sen­tence that would act as a de­ter­rent to other min­ing com­pa­nies.

De­fence coun­sel An­thony Willinge said this was North­ern Star Re­source’s first con­vic­tion of this type.

Mag­is­trate Robert Young said he found the site ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem had not been prop­erly main­tained and the em­ployer’s own poli­cies not prop­erly im­ple­mented, de­spite it be­ing easy to do so and part of its nor­mal course of busi­ness.

How­ever he said he also took into ac­count North­ern Star Re­sources’ early guilty plea, re­morse and co­op­er­a­tion with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and ac­cepted the busi­ness was a good cor­po­rate cit­i­zen.

Mr Young said the se­ri­ous­ness of the of­fence war­ranted a sen­tence 30 per cent of the $400,000 max­i­mum, or $120,000, be­fore dis­count­ing another 25 per cent for the early guilty plea. The de­fen­dant was also or­dered to pay court costs.

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