The man who went missing underground at the Mount Isa Mine in Queensland on Wednesday is now believed to have died and the search has been scaled back.
Mount Isa Police last night named the missing worker as 34-year-old Soldiers Hill man, Brett Kelly, and confirmed that the search operation was now one of recovery, not rescue.
Speaking to the North West Star, Mount Isa Police Inspector Trevor Kidd, said they had reason to believe Mr Kelly was no longer alive.
“The opportunity to recover the person alive no longer exists,” Inspector Kidd said.
“There will be a different allocation of resources.”
A police bomb squad robotic unit was sent to the mine from Townsville yesterday to assist in searching the difficult underground terrain, however it is not known at this stage if the camera-equipped robotic device has located the position of the missing man.
200 Mount Isa Mine employees were involved in the search for the man who was last seen at approximately 11.30am on Wednesday.
There have been no cave-ins or other unusual activity at the mine recently, and at this stage it is not known how or why the man went missing.
In a statement, North Queensland Copper Operations Chief Operating Officer Mike Westerman said, “I am deeply saddened and disappointed that we have been unable to locate Brett.”
“After it was identified on Wednesday (18 June) that Brett was missing, all activities in our underground copper operations ceased, we immediately mobilised a significant number of our underground workforce in an extensive effort to find him.
“We are now continuing to work with the Queensland Police Service, the Department of Natural Resources and Mines and other relevant authorities as part of the ongoing investigation into this matter.
“We are also keeping Brett’s family fully informed and providing them with all the support we can.”
Inspector Kidd told the North West Star that the robot used during the search features multiple cameras and lighting, on-board tool set including a drill, grinder and cutter, and pressure-driven manipulator claws.
“If you picture a small track vehicle, you’ve got to have reasonable terrain to try to move it around. It’s an underground mine, a kilometre or so beneath the ground, with a whole series of tunnels and vertical shafts,” Inspector Kidd said.
“It’s a dangerous working environment; it’s bare rock, high temperatures and low visibility.”