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Mine worker confirmed dead after wall collapses in the Top End

Machine operator Craig Butler
Machine operator Craig Butler

Loved ones are mourning the death of a mine worker who passed away after a wall collapsed on him on August 24.

Family members and colleagues are remembering an 59-year-old male who was suddenly buried in rock and soil while performing his duties at OM Holdings’ Bootu Creek Manganese Mine, 890 km southeast of Darwin.

Confirmed fatality believed to be Kiwi

The Singapore-headquartered proponent confirmed a fatality occurred on August 26 and would not release the man’s identity until the family agrees.

“To all his family, friends and work colleagues, OM Ltd extends its sincerest condolences,” the company said in a statement obtained by the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

However, QMEB understands the victim is most likely Darwin machine operator Craig Butler (pictured) who used to live in Whakatane, New Zealand.

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Investigation must be ‘resolved quickly’

Northern Territory Worksafe is conducting an investigation into what caused the incident to occur and the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) warns there is potential for further slippage in the area of the collapse if the examination takes too long.

“This incident will not be resolved quickly,” MCA chief executive Tania Constable said according to AAP. “Much planning is needed to ensure no one else is placed in danger by the delicate and intricate operations required on site.”

Safety comes first

Constable believes the safety and health of workers should be a top priority in the industry.

“Any loss of life in Australian mining is unacceptable,” she said. “This incident sends a clear message that the minerals industry needs to work harder on leadership, systems, people, culture and behaviour to become free of fatalities, injuries and industrial diseases.”

Unstable environment

Worksafe inspectors have confirmed the ground continues to be unstable according to their initial reports.

“Instability of the site needs to be further assessed before any work can be undertaken to ensure safety of workers and responders,” NT Police, Fire and Emergency Services said in a statement.

Life goes on

OM Holdings halted all operations at the mine at the time of the accident and told the stock exchange some work has since started up again.

Employees are being offered counselling and the proponent said it is co-operating with police and workplace safety authorities.

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