Emergency responders successfully removed a coal employee who was trapped on an earth-fill embankment.
Four workers recently rescued an amphibious excavator operator who became stranded for seven hours on an active tailings dam at Glencore’s Ravensworth Coal Mine, 103km northwest of Newcastle.
One of the 14-tonne vehicle’s tracks were damaged, preventing further movement about 200 metres offshore from the Coal Handling and Preparation Plant on 29 June 2022.
The crew, comprising of both Glencore and New South Wales Mines Rescue employees, initially planned to use an all-terrain vehicle (ATV). However, this was not feasible due to the dam’s unstable surface.
“The ATV could not gain traction across the tailings and was unable to travel far from the shore before having to return. The excavator became immobilised at 3:30pm and at 10:16pm a four-person rescue team entered the dam to rescue the operator, using ply boards and a rope tethered to the bank,” the NSW Resources Regulator said in a safety alert.
“At 10:33pm the rescue team and excavator operator returned safely to the shore. The operator was uninjured.”
Investigators discovered an earlier risk assessment neither covered geotechnical aspects of the tailings material nor contingency plans beyond the ATV rescue vehicle.
“Mine operators should carry out a risk assessment on works undertaken on active tailings dams. The risk assessment should include considering a geotechnical assessment of the tailings material, and rescue/emergency procedures including contingency plans if the primary means of rescue fails,” the alert said.
“Carry out capability testing of rescue devices (or rescue vehicles), before work on tailings dams begin [and] require all equipment brought on-site for works on tailings dams to pass the mine’s introduction to site process – and be fit for purpose.”