Mine death: 'It's gutted them, devastated them'
SHOCKWAVES have been sent through the close-knit mining community at Moranbah North Mine after a collision on the access road to the coal seam resulted in one death and six workers injured.
But CFMMEU mining division's Steve Smyth said the ripple effect from the tragedy was huge, from the whole Bowen Basin to the wider Queensland mining community.
The Queensland division president, who lives in Mackay, said he had already received texts from people who worked at the mine site but were not on shift when the crash occurred.
"It's gutted them, devastated them," he said.
"They work with and know the guys involved.
"You go to work to work, not to die."
Mr Smyth said union representatives in Moranbah were reaching out to affected families today to offer support.
He said he understood the miners involved, including the 10 people in the people carrier involved in the crash, were either from Moranbah or the wider Bowen Basin region.
"It's a very close-knit mine. You start at the same point every day, you work underground together all shift, you know everybody," he said.
"It has a real ripple effect through the workforce and the wider community.
"I've lived in mining communities and I can speak from experience. It's just absolutely tragic and devastating when something like this happens.
"It sends shockwaves through everybody and the broader mining community as well.
"Miners across Queensland have a lot in common, including the dangers and hazards that come with the job."
Anglo American has confirmed a Mines Inspectorate investigation is now underway, alongside the company's own investigation.
A spokeswoman said the mine's management team was this morning briefing all employees about the incident.
"Production remains in shutdown and will not recommence until the incident site has been released by the department and the mine can safely resume operation," a spokeswoman said.
Anglo American's Glen Britton said the company was working with the relevant authorities to understand how this incident occurred.
"We are devastated by the tragic loss of one of our employees in the incident that occurred yesterday at Moranbah North," the underground operations executive head said.
"Our thoughts and sympathies are with the family of our employee who passed away yesterday and we are doing everything we can to support them and our colleagues affected by this incident.
"Moranbah North will not recommence production until operations can be safely resumed."
Mr Smyth said it was still unclear exactly what had happened at the mine site but he believed the 10 workers in the personnel carrier were coming off shift and driving out of the mine when the collision occurred.
He said the union had safety representatives on site today who had similar powers to government inspectors and were experienced coal miners themselves.
Mr Smyth said they would participate in the investigation surrounding the collision.
"We know two vehicles have come together. How they came together will have to be determined," he said.
"How that's resulted or what's the mechanism still has to be investigated.
"I'm assuming they've impacted at force because people had to be taken to hospital but we will have to wait until the investigation is complete.
"It might take two to three days initially depending how big it is.
"Investigators will gather the evidence and then, I'm assuming, the equipment will be taken away from underground site to be examined.
"I assume within a couple of weeks the (mines) department will put something out with initial outcomes, a safety alert without the context and guts of what happened.
"We want to make sure all the information is examined."
The collision occurred on an access drift close to the surface of the mine.
Mr Smyth described it as the only way in and out of the mine for workers, with the only other entry for a conveyor belt.
"It's where the workers drive in and out of, where they take the material in and out of the mine," he said.
"When they drive these roadways, they're like half domes; it's wide, but enclosed.
"They drive it down to where they meet the coal seams to work.
"It's similar to the tunnels in Brisbane but not as big.
"It's a high-traffic area because it's the main way in and out of mine.
"It's like if every other road in Brisbane was closed and the tunnel was the only way through the city."
Mr Smyth said a grader operator's core role was driving around the mine and keeping the roads in good condition.
"It's no different to a grader out grading a country road but these have been modified for underground mines," he said.
"Because there's only way in and out, and the mining area might be 3-4km away, you've got to upkeep the road.
"Water gets on them and potholes form so you've got to maintain them so workers can travel safely and comfortably."
Mr Smyth said this incident would put people at the Moranbah site on edge but also worry workers at other mines.
He said while he did not know the ins and outs of this mine accident yet, he urged miners to be careful every day on the job.
"At the end of the day, you are your own safety officer," he said.
"It's about people being vigilant in the workplace.
"When you throw into the mix incidents like this, it applies a lot of pressure and gets people thinking."
Mr Smyth said it was important not to point the finger until the investigation was completed.