Tank failure a warning to industry

Companies appear in Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court
Date: Monday, 07 February 2022

Crushing Services International Pty Ltd (CSI) and Polaris Metals Pty Ltd have been fined more than $51,000 after a 600,000 litre raw water tank spontaneously failed at the Carina iron ore mine in May 2018.

CSI was fined $31,250 and ordered to pay $3,861 in costs while Polaris was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $3,861 in costs after the companies pleaded guilty in the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court for failing to ensure employees were not exposed to hazards. 

While no workers were in the vicinity when the tank failed, the outrush of water affected an operational area of 24,000m2 and displaced pumping infrastructure, ladders and associated debris.

Mines Safety Director at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety Andrew Chaplyn said the failure could have caused serious injury or fatalities at the site.

“While no one was injured, two CSI employees were working in the crushing plant and another four were in or around the administration buildings,” Mr Chaplyn said.

“CSI employees also passed the tank several times a day, while Polaris workers conducted twice-daily checks.

“The risk to employees was high and it was only good luck that no one was hurt.”

The structural integrity of the tank had deteriorated substantially due to corrosion, despite the servicing instructions stating it should have visual inspections annually, including checks to all external surfaces.

CSI and Polaris failed to undertake any formal inspections, despite employees reporting leaks.

Polaris obtained a quote to replace the tank’s liner in November 2015 and an updated quote in March 2016.  The replacement liner was never ordered or installed and employees noticed the tank was still leaking in 2017.

Mr Chaplyn said mine operators must ensure tank structures and components are maintained in a safe and stable condition, and that appropriately trained and experienced workers undertake repair work.

Polaris had responsibility as the principal employer at the Carina mine, which is about 100 kilometres north-east of Southern Cross, while CSI was responsible for operations at the site of the incident.