Rockfall at Australia gold mine kills one worker, injures another

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A 37-year-old man has died and another was seriously injured after rocks collapsed inside an underground gold mine in Australia's Victoria state, while 28 other workers at the site were rescued, authorities said on Thursday.

Emergency crews were called to the Ballarat Gold Mine in Mount Clear, about 100 km (62 miles) west of Melbourne, on Wednesday evening after reports of a rockfall. The incident happened about 3 km from the underground mine's entry, Victoria police said in a statement.

Paramedics were able to rescue one miner, who was treated for lower body injuries and airlifted to hospital in a serious condition. The miners who took refuge in a safety pod were winched to safety, police said.

A workers' union said the death and serious injury of the workers could have been avoided because they were performing a task called "airleg mining" - a manual handheld type of drilling into rocks - on unsupported ground when it collapsed.

"The information that we're getting back was that this was a quick, cheap and easy way to chase gold," Ronnie Hayden, Australian Workers Union's Victoria secretary, told reporters.

Hayden said the union members at the mine had been raising concerns "about this style of mining and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears."

Victory Minerals, which owns the Ballarat Gold Mine, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The site has been closed down for police and Victoria's workplace safety regulator to conduct their investigations, authorities said.

Federal Resources Minister Madeleine King told ABC Radio that all safety processes at the mine will be checked thoroughly, adding it was "too early to really go into any speculation" about the accident.

In 2007, 27 miners were trapped underground at the same mine for several hours before being rescued, according to reports in Australian media.

(Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Jamie Freed)