Bendigo Magistrate Richard Wright yesterday convicted and fined Fosterville Goldmine Pty Ltd $110,000 after it pleaded guilty to one charge laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.*

Last month, MG Mining Pty Ltd, a company contracted by Fosterville, to carry out its underground mining operations, was convicted and fined $150,000.

Fosterville Gold Mine Pty Ltd (formerly known as Perseverance Exploration Pty Ltd) holds a mining licence authorising it to mine the Fosterville Gold Mine.

It contracted MG Mining Services Pty Ltd to carry out all underground mining activities at the mine. MG Mining had no role in the planning of the blast.

MG Mining Pty Ltd pleaded guilty to one breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004*.

WorkSafe alleged miners were affected by toxic gases as they re-entered the mine an hour after blasting on December 20, 2007.
Ten miners were taken by ambulance to Bendigo hospital and were treated for respiratory problems.

WorkSafe Victoria’s Executive Director for Health and Safety, Ian Forsyth, said coupled with the recent mining incidents in New Zealand and Chile, the Bendigo incident demonstrated the need for high safety standards to be in place, and applied, in mines.

“Mining can be a high-risk industry, but when high levels of safety are properly applied, those risks are greatly reduced.

“Anticipating the potential hazards, particularly when carrying out new techniques reduces risk, while serious incidents like this have legal, reputational and commercial effects.”

WorkSafe’s investigation of the incident found:

  • carbon monoxide levels were not measured when workers began to return to the mine;
  • some workers became ill from the effects of carbon monoxide exposure. Several became dizzy and tight in the chest while one became unconscious;
  • tests at the Bendigo Base hospital found extremely high levels of carbon monoxide compounds in the miners’ blood.

WorkSafe issued five prohibition notices and five improvement notices relating to blast procedures after the incident.

* The charges to which each company pleaded guilty were issued under Section 21(1)(2a) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act which requires employers to provide a working environment including plant or systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risks to health.