One dead, 29 rescued after Australian gold mine collapse

One dead, 29 rescued after Australian gold mine collapse
One dead, 29 rescued after Australian gold mine collapse

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - This frame grab taken from video footage provided by Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC) on March 14, 2024 via AFPTV shows equipment and structures at an Australian gold mine that collapsed on March 13, 2024, killing one miner. — AFP pic/ABC via AFPTV

SYDNEY, March 14 — Search teams pulled a body from the rubble of a collapsed Australian gold mine today, after a major rescue operation earlier freed 29 workers trapped underground.

A crew of 30 miners was working deep inside the Ballarat Gold Mine in the state of Victoria when it caved in yesterday evening.

While 29 of the workers were rescued within hours, a 37-year-old man was helplessly pinned by the tumbling rocks.

Emergency services toiled through the night to dig the man from the debris, some three kilometres from the mine entrance.

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His body was eventually pulled from the mine this morning.

Union officials have raised questions about the mine’s safety record — there was a previous collapse in 2007 when another company owned the mine — and the site’s owner now faces a major workplace safety probe.

“It’s devastating because we’ve lost yet another worker and no worker should be injured or die at work,” said Australian Workers Union state secretary Ronnie Hayden.

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“But it’s even more devastating because this should have been avoided.”

Hayden said the union would push state authorities to pursue a case under “industrial manslaughter” legislation.

“Our members are angry. Our organisers are angry,” he said.

Union members had raised concerns about the mine’s use of “air legging”, a form of two-person manual drilling, the union boss said.

“It seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

‘Built on gold’

Ballarat Mayor Des Hudson said the incident would “ripple through the Ballarat Gold Mine organisation for days, weeks and months”.

“Not just through the recovery phase, but also through the investigation into what happened,” he told AFP.

“We are a community built on gold. Gold still has a significant role to play in Ballarat.”

Victoria police said the “rockfall” at the mine also injured a 21-year-old man, who was airlifted to hospital in a “serious condition”.

Twenty-eight workers took refuge in a safety pod, they said.

Ballarat Gold Mine told AFP on Thursday morning that it had “no statement at this time”.

Gold rush

The Australian Workers Union raised safety concerns in 2021 under the mine’s previous operator, an Australian subsidiary of Singapore-listed Shen Yao Holdings.

An investigation by WorkSafe Victoria revealed flaws in the mine’s safety plan and that serious injury or fatalities could occur if emergency services relied on those plans to conduct rescues.

The mine’s 2007 cave-in saw 27 workers trapped underground.

All were freed without injury after a five-hour rescue operation that hauled them to the surface through a ventilation shaft.

Victory Minerals took ownership of the gold mine in December 2023, and now employs about 200 people.

Ballarat, about a two hours’ drive west of state capital Melbourne, sits at the centre of one of Australia’s most famous gold mining regions.

The precious metal was found near the town in 1851, sparking a frenzied gold rush that would last for decades.

Victoria produces about 30 per cent of all the gold mined in Australia, and almost two per cent of global stocks every year. — AFP

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