Two companies and supervisor fined $1.57 million after mine fatality

The death of any worker is one too many, and industry must learn from this tragedy.
Date: Tuesday, 19 December 2023

Two mining-related companies and a mine supervisor were today fined $1.57 million after a worker was killed when he drove over the edge of an open void, falling around 25 metres.

The July 2020 incident occurred at the Whirling Dervish underground gold mine, part of Northern Star’s Carosue Dam operations located around 120 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie.

The worker was using an underground loader to build a safety barrier, or bund, from broken rock when he drove over the edge of an excavated void, known as a stope.

After arriving at the scene of the incident, a shift supervisor could see the worker was lying on his back outside the cab of the loader and was unresponsive.

Emergency personnel were unable to launch an immediate rescue operation due to the risk of rock falls within the stope. Several hours later, the rescue team used a remotely operated loader to recover the worker whom a doctor then declared deceased.

The fatally injured worker was employed by Byrnecut Australia, a company contracted by Saracen Gold Mines to perform underground mine work. Saracen changed its name to Northern Star (Carosue Dam) after it merged with Northern Star Resources in February 2021.

All three parties pleaded guilty in the Perth Magistrates Court.

As an employer, Byrnecut Australia was fined $850,000 plus costs of $4,241 for failing to provide a safe working environment which caused the death of a worker.

As the principal employer, Northern Star was fined $700,000 plus costs of $4,241 for engaging a contractor (Byrnecut) that failed to provide a safe working environment which caused the death of a worker.

As an employee, mine supervisor Arsen Korzhov was fined $20,000 plus costs of $4,241 for not taking reasonable care of the safety of another person which caused the death of a worker.

Mr Korzhov’s duties included shift-by-shift safety inspections of all active workplaces under his control. On the day of the incident, he removed a barricade and warning signs from the stope shortly before the fatally injured worker started building the bund.

Mr Korzhov then left the area which meant the stope was unguarded.

WorkSafe Chief Inspector of Mines Martin Ralph said the tragic incident should not have happened.

“Today’s penalties send a clear message to all mine operators, contracting companies and front-line supervisors about the importance of ensuring mine worker safety,” he said.

“All mining operations must have safe systems of work in place to protect workers from hazardous conditions.

“The death of any worker is one too many, and industry must learn from this tragedy.”

Mr Ralph said several factors contributed to the fatal incident.

“Northern Star and Byrnecut failed to complete the required Job Hazard Analysis and neither company took steps to instigate a proper risk assessment for the task,” he said.

“Mine operators must erect a physical barrier before an open stope is created or changed by firing explosives, and it must be maintained to prevent access.

“In this instance, there were no physical barriers to prevent the loader entering the stope, nor were there effective wall markings to help the driver judge the distance to the open edge.

“These factors are especially important as a loader’s configuration can limit the driver’s forward visibility.”

WorkSafe laid the charges under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act and Regulations that were superseded by the Work Health and Safety Act and (Mines) Regulations in March 2022.