Mining industry 'needs to look at itself' after fatal accident

Mining industry 'needs to look at itself' after fatal accident

Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Broadcast: 16/04/2014

Reporter: Sarah Ferguson

Two miners tragically lost their lives when a wall collapsed in a mine near Cessnock, NSW, and the region's CFMEU President for Mining and Energy says the industry needs to 'look at itself' to help prevent such accidents. Transcript

SARAH FERGUSON, PRESENTER: Dramatic and sometimes fatal incidents have been a part of the mining industry forever. And last night, tragically, two men lost their lives in a mine near Cessnock in New South Wales. Phillip Grant and Jamie Mitchell were killed when they were working with a number of other miners when a wall collapsed. Authorities expect it will take several days to retrieve the bodies. It takes the total number of mining deaths in Australia this year to six. Peter Jordan is the local mining union president in Cessnock. I spoke to him earlier.

Peter Jordan, welcome to 7.30.


SARAH FERGUSON: I understand you've just been with the men who survived the accident underground. How are they?

PETER JORDAN: They're doing OK. We've had a long discussion with not only them, but that entire crew of mine workers this afternoon here at our union office and we've said to them that they'd be very much aware that the union's in full support and we will give whatever assistance and guidance they need during this difficult period of time, but we're also talking to those individuals who were directly involved and giving them very much the assistance they would need.

SARAH FERGUSON: Can you tell us what exactly happened underground?

PETER JORDAN: Look, we understand that there were four of our members working on a continuous miner, two of them on either side of that piece of equipment. Two of them unfortunately on one side where the rib of coal - we call that the rib - the wall, one wall of the mine just collapsed and it ended up out on top of those two miners on that side. Now, miraculously, the two on the other side of the continuous miner were able to walk away unscathed. But, unfortunately, a lot of coal buried not only those two miners, but the continuous miner itself.

SARAH FERGUSON: It's an awful picture that you draw. Were those - the two men who survived, did they say what happened to the others?

PETER JORDAN: Oh, yes, they would've observed it. Look, they're right there. They were operating the continuous miner and they're working as a team there, and, look, it just happened unexpectedly, so it's taken everyone by surprise. But, look, a lot of credit to those couple of miners in particular because they - their instinct just kicked in and, look, they just got in, they shored up the situation, they immediately put some props in to make sure that the roof was stable - and, as I understand, it was stable, but they didn't know that at the time - and then immediately set about trying to retrieve their workmates. But, look, upon looking at or investigating the situation, it became obvious quite quickly to those two mine workers that their two workmates were buried alive or maybe probably instantly killed.

SARAH FERGUSON: There've been a number of mine fatalities in the last couple of tears and this makes six already this year. Are our mines simply unsafe?

PETER JORDAN: Look, I'd like to think that we do have safe mines. But, look, the point you make about six fatalities is six too many. These incidents shouldn't happen. Mine workers should be able to go to work. It is a difficult, dangerous industry, but still, the industry should be able to let these mine workers go home to their families at the end of their shift. Obviously, that's not occurred over the last few years, and last night's incident, the one in 2011 and the six you refer to, would simply indicate that the industry has to have a good look at ourselves. I don't criticise any individual party. I say that, look, the proprietors, the employers, the mine workers, the union, the regulator, the governments, we need to have a damn good look at what's happening and we need to be sure, we have to answer the question: is the industry safe? Can we send these mine workers underground into the open cuts to do their normal day's work and go home safe? Obviously we can't say at the moment that yes, we can, so, there is a lot of work that we need to do.

SARAH FERGUSON: Peter Jordan, thank you very much for joining us.

PETER JORDAN: Thank you, Sarah. Images

Original Post By: