Avoca Mining Pty Ltd fined $20,000 for explosives charges

Avoca Mining Pty Ltd has been fined $20,000 in Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court
Date: Thursday, 15 June 2017

Avoca Mining Pty Ltd has been fined $20,000 in Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court after pleading guilty to four charges related to the secure storage of explosives.

On 5 May 2015, WA Police uncovered the theft of 100kg of explosives taken from the Higginsville gold operation near Norseman in the Goldfields. Two men and a woman were convicted in relation to the theft.

Department of Mines and Petroleum Chief Dangerous Goods Officer Ross Stidolph said the department's investigation discovered a series of failures with regard to secure storage of explosives.

"While the company did make some efforts to comply with regulations, given the high risks to the community associated with explosives, any failures in the systems used to keep explosives secure should be considered as particularly serious," Mr Stidolph said.

"The department’s investigation found that inventory records did not accurately account for explosives moving in and out of the explosives storage facility.

"Companies with an explosives licence need to conduct regular stocktakes and ensure they adequately investigate any discrepancies with their inventory."

In handing down her decision, Magistrate Sandra De Maio said the security of explosives is dependent on the rigorous application of measures and actions that together serve to create a system of checks and balances that allow for the timely detection of an unexplained loss of explosives.

Despite records showing discrepancies between the recorded quantities of explosives and the actual quantities of explosives stored, discrepancies were not investigated by the company.

“Avoca did not ensure that all measures necessary for an effective security system were satisfactorily implemented and maintained,” Mr Stidolph said.

“While the root cause of the theft of the explosives was the illegal conduct of a trusted employee, it is important to emphasise that industries engaged in the possession and use of explosives need to have appropriate controls and procedures in place to ensure explosives are secure from sabotage, theft, unexplained loss and unauthorised access.

“An explosives storage licensee is responsible for the security and safety of the explosives.  These responsibilities cannot be delegated or transferred to subcontractors.

“Failure to have the appropriate controls and procedures in place can result not only in significant financial penalties, but also put the safety of the community at risk should those explosives end up in the wrong hands.”

In handing down the penalty, the court took into account the company’s early guilty plea, no previous convictions and cooperation with investigators.