Ventilation blamed for mine death
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.