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FIFO workers need ‘courage’ to speak up says authority

Scott Stewart meets workers
Scott Stewart meets workers

Remote employees must be brave and immediately report workplace hazards, an advocate said.

Scott Stewart wants every fly-in fly-out (FIFO) worker to voice health and safety concerns. The Queensland resources minister believes more fatalities could be prevented if crew members overcome their fear of reprisal.

“This is about making sure that workers, administration and everyone on that site are 100 per cent certain of their roles and responsibilities but also have the courage and ability to report any concerns they have around safety,” he told a press conference in Townsville.

Stewart confirmed the operation remains suspended since Barminco FIFO employees Dylan Langridge and Trevor Davis suffered fatal injuries at about 8:55am on 15 February 2023 in MMG’s Dugald River underground mine.

The pair had travelled in a utility vehicle 125 metres beneath the surface when the ground collapsed. The vehicle, and a drilling rig following closely behind, plunged 15 metres into a refilled ore stope.

The rig worker escaped with minor injuries and raised the alarm. Neither of the missing ute occupants responded to radio communication. Since ground stability concerns delayed rescue teams from removing debris they deployed drone technology to help locate the vehicle.

Colleagues eventually extracted Langridge and Davis at about 5pm on February 16. Their bodies will undergo coronial examination before being released to grieving family members.

The State Government has already begun probing the mine’s adherence to safety regulations.

“The mine will stay closed until police have finished their investigations then they will hand it over to Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ). When they deem it suitable they will then reopen that mine,” Stewart said.

Investigators are widely expected to review more than two dozen earlier mine site visits. Although multiple safety directives were issued to the Hong Kong-listed proponent during the past 24 months, they were each “implemented immediately” with “nothing ­untoward” found during different audits and safety checks.

“Over the past two years the site has interacted with the mines inspectorate on 27 occasions,” RSHQ mines inspector Steve Firth told the Special Broadcasting Service.

Preliminary examinations suspect “bogging operations” had formed an unexpected void in the stope. This occurred in a lower tunnel, running parallel to the level from which the machinery initially fell.

The Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) expressed condolences and applauded emergency responders who attended the mine site, 65km northwest of Cloncurry.

“MCA is deeply saddened by the loss of two mine workers, Trevor Davis and Dylan Langridge, at the Dugald River mine in Queensland. We extend our sympathy to the family and colleagues of the workers and express our admiration for the significant efforts of the emergency response personnel,” CEO Tania Constable said in a public statement.

“[The] industry’s core value and commitment is the safety, health and psychological wellbeing of its workforce, where everyone who goes to work returns home safe and healthy. The industry recognises that meeting this commitment requires continuous vigilance to prevent all fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses.”

Good friend Samantha Clark revealed Davis planned to change jobs and was already finishing up at the mine.

“Then he was moving to another mine in New South Wales. This was his last swing down there,” she said according to the Nine Network.

“I asked him a couple of times, ‘Don’t you get scared down there?’ He said it just like driving through the Sydney tunnels only they are longer and bumpier.”

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