VLI contractor killed at Grasstree

VALLEY Longwall International has confirmed that its employee, Ian Downes, was killed at Anglo American’s Grasstree longwall mine in Queensland last week.
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Blair Price

“It is with great sadness that we confirm that one of our employees, Ian Downes, was fatally injured in an accident at the Grasstree mine in Queensland,” VLI CEO Brett Lynch said on Friday.

“We offer our deepest condolences to Ian’s family and friends and we will provide Ian’s family with all the support we can.

“VLI is actively working with the police, Mines Department and the mine owner, Anglo American, as part of the investigation into this tragic accident.”

The accident is believed to have occurred at around midnight on Friday, with ABC reporting that the 45-year-old victim was spraying grout on an underground wall when it collapsed on him.

Anglo and VLI have not provided any details on Downes’ work activities immediately prior to the accident which killed him.

Operations at the mine were suspended with mines inspectorate investigations underway at the site on Friday.

“Employees involved are receiving counselling as required,” Anglo said.

“Anglo American is treating the incident very seriously. Our first priority remains the safety and wellbeing of all workers at Anglo American.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and colleagues during this tragic and difficult time.

“More information will be provided as soon as it becomes available.”

Grasstree was one of the most improved mines in Anglo American’s stable before its first fatality in May this year when a worker was believed to have been asphyxiated by noxious gas.

The second Grasstree fatality means 2014 is shaping up as a horror year for the Australian underground coal industry, coming on the heels of a tragic wall collapse at Yancoal’s Austar colliery in April which took the lives of two mine workers.

A union official told ICN that Anglo should urgently review its workplace practices no matter what the investigation brings. Anglo has not yet responded to this comment.

VLI was last rocked by grim news in late 2010 when it lost three workers – Joseph Dunbar, Benjamin Rockhouse and Josh Ufer – in the Pike River coal mine disaster in New Zealand.

Ufer worked as a supervisor at the mine and was one of the two Australians killed.

Dunbar was a 17-year-old apprentice on his first day underground when the first explosion occurred.

Rockhouse’s brother Daniel not only escaped the mine but also helped save sparky Russell Smith.