Authorities think it will take several days before the lifeless body of a mine worker will finally be removed from large amounts of rock and soil that buried him when a wall collapsed on August 24.
The 58-year-old machine operator was suddenly buried in rock and soil while performing his duties at OM Holdings’ Bootu Creek Manganese Mine, 890 km southeast of Darwin.
Too dangerous to enter
Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services do not know exactly when Craig Butler will again see the light of day because the site continues to be too dangerous to enter.
The main problem is the collapse caused at least 48,000 cubic metres to fall, which is a “significant amount of soil material” according to the Singapore-headquartered proponent.
“Unfortunately a time-frame can’t be set, it is expected that it will take some time, maybe days before we are able to put that plan in place and commence the excavation process,” NT police assistant commissioner Travis Wurst told reporters according to the Australian Associated Press (AAP). “I do know that it is particularly unstable and unsafe to go near the site, it has been closed.”
‘Safe and sustainable’ plan
The recovery crew is working with mining industry bodies and OM Holdings to carry out a “safe and sustainable” plan.
“[The] plan will take a little while to develop because of the level of technical expertise required to make informed decisions around that plan,” Wurst said.
The proponent confirmed a fatality occurred on August 26 and expressed its “sincerest condolences” to Butler’s family, friends and work colleagues according to AAP.
Previous wall slips worry union
Northern Territory Worksafe is conducting an investigation into what caused the incident to occur.
The Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMMEU) is concerned after learning from mine workers there were previous wall slips at the mine back in 2018.
CFMEU NT organiser Kane Lowth questioned whether NT WorkSafe or the Department of Primary Industry and Resources did enough to make OM Holdings accountable for the mine’s safety or had just taken the company’s word for it.
In 2013 OM was fined $150,000 in the NT Local Court for causing a collapse that desecrated a sacred Aboriginal site at Bootu Creek known as “Two Women Sitting Down.”
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Back to work
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.