Investigations into yesterday’s double fatality at a mine on Tasmania’s west coast are expected to focus on whether the workers were wearing safety harnesses.
Underground work at the Mount Lyell copper mine at Queenstown has been suspended after the death of two miners about 600 metres underground.
Craig Gleeson, 45, and Alistair Lucas, 25, died after falling about 35 metres down the main shaft.
Mr Lucas died on the way to hospital, while Mr Gleeson’s body was retrieved about 8:00pm yesterday. Autopsies are expected to be carried out in Hobart today.
The men were maintenance workers who had been standing on a platform 600 metres below ground in the main shaft before they fell.
Inspector Matthew Richman from Tasmania Police says questions have been raised about whether the men had safety harnesses on.
“That’s going to be a significant part of the investigation, together with what the circumstances were at the time,” he said.
The operator, Copper Mines of Tasmania, says underground work will not resume until after the investigation.
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union is not aware of any major safety concerns at the Mount Lyell mine, which employs about 300 workers.
The union’s John Short says the investigation should be left to run its course.
“There has been a few safety concerns … we haven’t had a lot of problems here,” he said.
“Mining is intrinsically, I suppose, a dangerous profession and obviously everyone tries to make sure it’s as safe as possible.
“There has been a few mudslides in the past there, but this is obviously a totally different type of accident.
“You’ve got to be vigilant in mines, they’re not forgiving places. I suppose there’s a bit of a hostile environment down there.
“If something does go wrong it’s compounded by that.”
Mr Short says it is too early to speculate on the cause.
“Obviously the story is they were maintenance workers working on the mine shaft, and obviously it’s a tragic accident,” Mr Short said.
Counsellors were brought in for the workers after the incident.
A community in shock
Mayor Robyn Gerrity says the mining town of 2,500 people is in shock.
“You think with all the workplace standards and safety policies around these days, these things just shouldn’t happen,” she said.
Both men have young families; one with an 18-month-old child.
A friend of both men, Craig Richardson, says he feels for the families.
“We still never expect this to happen but it has happened. We have to bond together and make sure these families are looked after,” he said.
“You can’t really say anything to make anything better. It’s just one of those things that’s very hard.”
The men are described as being extremely popular local football players and “salt-of-the-earth” types.
Darwin Football Association president Ray Parry says a meeting will be held tomorrow night to discuss how to honour the men.
“I could only imagine what it would do to a lot of the players,” he said.
“A lot of those people have been down there all their lives. Everyone is known to everyone down there. It’s one of the strengths of the west coast community.”
Premier Lara Giddings says there will be lessons to learn from yesterday’s tragedy.
“It’s absolutely awful, and of course for Queenstown history shows that they have experienced deaths before in mines,” she said.
“What’s important now is that we learn what did happen in this particular instance and try to ensure … that this doesn’t happen again.”
Opposition leader Will Hodgman says he is deeply saddened by the news.
Greens leader Nick McKim has urged people to let workplace investigators determine the cause of the accident.
“It is a terrible tragedy, particularly for a tight-knit community like the west coast,” he said.
“But we just need to let the investigation now play out.”
Above ground work at the mine has resumed.
Read Here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-10/mine-deaths-inquiry-to-focus-on-miners27-safety-harnesses/5145838