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Resources multinational mourns fatalities, celebrates ‘record production’

Goonyella Riverside Coal Mine
Goonyella Riverside Coal Mine

A mining giant declared the 2023 financial year a success despite multiple workplace deaths.

BHP recently celebrated “record production” of 253 million tonnes (Mt) due to “productivity gains” across its supply chain, rail network and car dumpers.

“We are focused on increasing annual production at WA iron ore (WAIO) to greater than 305Mt over the medium term. We are also studying growing the WAIO business to 330 Mt per annum (Mtpa). Within WAIO South Flank remains on track to ramp up to full production capacity of 80 Mtpa (100 per cent basis) by the end of fiscal 2024 (FY2024),” the company said in its latest annual report.

However, the proponent’s profit dropped 33 per cent to US$22.9 billion (A$35.6B), yard technician Jody Byrne died from a train accident at the Boodarie rail yard on 7 February 2023, and a light vehicle fatally struck fitter Nathan Scholz near the Olympic Dam mine on April 25.

These incidents occurred within the space of just 11 weeks. BHP had earlier celebrated four years without a workplace fatality in its operational review for the year ending on 31 December 2022.

“In FY2023 we achieved strong performance and made progress towards our social value and sustainability commitments, targets and goals. However, these achievements were overshadowed by the tragic deaths of our colleagues,” chair Ken MacKenzie said in the report.

“Our investigation into Jody Byrne’s death at WAIO has been completed and the findings shared with industry peers. Our investigation into Nathan Scholz’s death at Olympic Dam is ongoing.”

MacKenzie revealed his employer has strengthened its control environment and revamped its execution of “safety systems and processes” in the field.

BHP revealed it now plans to roll out more automated machines to remove human operators from “high temperature” environments.

“We have deployed heat management strategies such as optimising ventilation, work-rest cycles, communication to our workforce about thermal conditions and awareness campaign materials targeted towards those conducting work that exposes them to risk of heat stress,” the report said.

A new retainer bolt system was separately designed and implemented to “eliminate safety risks” during tyre and rim assembly change outs at the Goonyella Riverside Coal Mine, 225km southwest of Mackay.

“There have been several incidents, injuries and even fatalities when people have worked with heavy vehicle earth moving tyres,” the company said.

“Trials occurred over two years and included design, production of a prototype, and on site and third-party testing to demonstrate proof of concept. These trials were successful with Goonyella Riverside mine now in the process of permanently implementing the system on its vehicles.”

Click here to read the full annual report.

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