King expects full investigation into Ballarat gold mine collapse

Australian Workers’ Union branch secretary Ronnie Hayden says the two workers were “air-legging” on unsupported ground which gave way.
Australian Workers’ Union branch secretary Ronnie Hayden says the two workers were “air-legging” on unsupported ground which gave way.

WorkSafe Victoria is investigating a fatal mine collapse yesterday at Victory Minerals’ Ballarat gold mine at Mount Clear in the State’s west.

A 37-year-old Bruthen man has died and a 21-year-old Ballarat man is seriously injured after a rockfall in the underground mine.

Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King says her thoughts are with the family and friends of the young man who has died mining.

“We must remember this is a dangerous job,” she said.

“The prosperity of our nation is the resources sector and it’s built off the hard work of the young men and women, like the young man who has sadly died in this accident.

“I expect a full investigation and I know that that will be under way and, again, my thoughts are with his workmates and family at this very sad time.”

Emergency services were called to the mine site at Woolshed Gully Drive about 4.50pm.

Two people were pinned by fallen rocks while 29 workers were able to take refuge in a safety pod.

The incident occurred 500m underground about 3km from the mine entry.

It is understood workers were undertaking hand-mining operations, specifically air leg mining, when two of them were trapped by a rock fall about 4.30pm.

The death is the 10th confirmed workplace fatality for 2024, according to WorkSafe Victoria, with 14 work-related deaths at the same time last year.

Australian Workers’ Union branch secretary Ronnie Hayden says the two workers were “air-legging” on unsupported ground which gave way.

“This should have been avoided – they should not have been doing that task in that mine,” he said.

“We are going to be pushing very hard to make sure that the industrial manslaughter laws are used.

“Since industrial manslaughter laws have come in, we’ve had 169 Victorians killed at work.

“This year, we have had 12 Victorians killed at work. And in the time since those laws have come in, we’ve had one prosecution and no jail time.

“This is not acceptable. There is no point in creating laws to protect workers if we don’t use those laws.”

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable says safety is the most important issue for the mining industry.

“This tragic event is a reminder of the need to always prioritise safety above all else,” she said.

“The minerals industry will continue to work hard to eliminate fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses.”

The Victorian Police is preparing a report for the State Coroner.