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Multinational mining company cops heavy fine for instant death

Anglo American

A multinational exploration company faces a hefty fine for the sudden death of an electrician working at its coal mine in Central Queensland.

Anglo Coal will have to pay $137,500 after it was found guilty of sending electrician Paul McGuire to almost instant death from asphyxiation at the Grasstree Underground Coal Mine, 281km west of Mackay.

Magistrate Damien Dwyer slammed Anglo’s lack of safety as “incomprehensible” and “shoddy”.

Mackay Magistrates Court found Anglo staff had previously visited the lethal area three times in consecutive months, from February to April 2014, and had noted the sensor in question was not there.

However, the late McGuire collected a job card with the same incorrect sensor location on 6 May the same year and tried to open a hatch with a spanner. He became exposed to deadly air from the caved-in ‘goaf’ section of the mine and died almost instantly.

Anglo American pleaded guilty for failing to discharge a health and safety obligation.

The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) believes Anglo management should have faced a jail term McGuire’s death, and urged the State Government to introduce tougher penalties.

“If you kill a worker, you should go to jail. Workers deserve to know their lives are not being put at risk when they head to work – and their families should know their loved ones will return home,” CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth says.

“Anglo is a global mining giant and this fine is not even a blip on their radar. What will they learn from this lesson? Nothing – they will keep putting the health and safety of workers at risk.”

How the tragedy unfolded

11.15am – Paul McGuire arrives on his shift. He collects his job cards and starts work
12.18pm – McGuire arrives at the pit bottom
12.23pm – He phones the control room and says he will perform gas calibrations at two stations
12.53pm – McGuire completes one gas calibration. He contacts the control room to say he will go to 901 Tailgate to complete another
12.55pm – He speaks to other underground coal miners and tells one where he will go next
1.05pm – McGuires opens the hatch at 901 Tailgate with a spanner. He inhales unbreathable air and dies


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