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Mining giant suspends underground mine after earthquake

BHP Nickel West
BHP Nickel West

A multinational resources producer temporarily stopped mineral production because the ground shook violently.

Mining work was suspended after several employees reported an earthquake at BHP’s Nickel West operation, 657km east of Geraldton.

The Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety recently launched an investigation into possible impacts the 3.5 magnitude tremor had when striking the underground mine at about 3:24pm local time on 24 November 2022.

“The site’s underground operations remain suspended until further notice, and the mine operator will notify WorkSafe when all safe working systems for the underground mine have been restored,” acting WorkSafe mines chief inspector and mines safety director Christina Folley said according to Seven West Media.

BHP workers claim the quake temporarily caused a blackout and communication outage, affecting about 89 colleagues. The proponent’s emergency response team reportedly assessed damage and fallen rocks at the mine. Employees then used vehicles and a cage lift to remove all hazardous debris from mine shafts. The entire process lasted more than seven hours.

“All team members are safe, uninjured and accounted for,” a BHP spokesperson said according to the Daily Mail.

“In line with our usual processes, operations will resume once safety tests have been completed.”

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) urged WorkSafe and the proponent to release more details about the incident, especially since an earlier tremor measuring 3.7 on the Richter scale shut down the same operation a decade ago.

“BHP needs to give us the full story. What happened? Will this happen again? Is it preventable?” state branch secretary Brad Gandy said according to Seven West Media.

“Companies should be talking to us, talking to the relevant bodies – not closing ranks and bunkering down.”

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