Grasstree shut for investigation

OPERATIONS at Anglo American’s Grasstree longwall mine in Queensland remained suspended yesterday as mines inspectorate officials went underground to start their investigation into the accident which killed a Valley Longwall International contractor last week.
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Mines rescue treating casualties on the longwall face during the Grasstree level 1 exercise

Blair Price

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines also provided some extra details of the incident which occurred at 11pm on Thursday.

“The mine reported that at approximately 11pm a contractor was pressure grouting a wall on an underground roadway when part of the wall came away and struck him,” A DNRM spokesperson said.

“The worker was given medical attention at the scene and brought to the surface where he was pronounced deceased by paramedics.”

All operations at the mine have been suspended since.

“Two senior mines inspectors and an investigator will be at the mine this morning to begin their investigation,” DNRM said yesterday.

“The investigation report will be provided to the Coroner who will determine cause of death.”

On Friday, Valley Longwall International confirmed the victim was one of its workers.

“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.”

Anglo also said that employees who were involved were receiving counselling as required.

“Anglo American is treating the incident very seriously. Our first priority remains the safety and wellbeing of all workers at Anglo American,” the company said on Friday.

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

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.

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