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Multiple mining companies penalised for underground fatality

Byrnecut workers
Byrnecut workers

A resources services company, mineral producer and manager was disciplined for failing to prevent a deadly fall.

Byrnecut Australia should have erected safety barriers around an excavated void at Saracen Minerals’ Whirling Dervish mine. This is the conclusion the jury reached after reviewing circumstances surrounding Michael Benjamin Johnson’s loader plunging 25 metres down a stope in July 2020.

Colleagues discovered the bogger operator’s body lying on the pit floor next to the heavy vehicle. The 38-year-old was severely injured and died after rescue workers took several hours to reach him due to the risk of rock falls.

A Department of Energy, Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety investigation concluded the supervisor had allegedly removed safety barricades and warning signs shortly before the incident.

Arsen Korzhov pleaded guilty to not reasonably caring for the safety of others, resulting in one death. The mine supervisor was fined $20,000 plus costs.

Byrnecut received a $850,000 penalty plus costs totalling $4241 for failing to provide a safe workplace and causing a fatality.

Perth Magistrate’s Court also fined Saracen Gold Mines, which is now known as Northern Star (Carosue Dam), $700,000 plus costs for engaging a contractor that failed to provide a safe work environment resulting in one death.

The judge handed down a total of $1.57 million in financial penalties.

“Northern Star and Byrnecut failed to complete the required job hazard analysis and neither company took steps to instigate a proper risk assessment for the task. There were [also] no physical barriers to prevent the loader entering the stope, nor were there effective wall markings to help the driver judge the distance to the open edge,” WorkSafe chief inspector of mines Martin Ralph said according to the Australian Associated Press.

“All mining operations must have safe systems of work in place to protect workers from hazardous conditions. The death of any worker is one too many, and industry must learn from this tragedy.”

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