Friends of Wayne Fowlie say the father of three killed in an underground rock fall at Central Norseman Gold's Harlequin mine on Saturday was planning to return to New Zealand when the mine closed.
The 59-year-old is believed to have moved to Norseman in mid-2012 but had recently bought land in his native New Zealand and was only months away from retirement.
"He was one of the nicest guys in town," neighbour Sharne Pietersen said.
"Everybody knew him. He would give you the shirt off his back."
Mr Fowlie was the fourth fatality in WA's mining sector since the State had a fatality-free year in 2012.
His daughter Mindy, who left Norseman last week for a holiday, posted a photograph of the grandfather on Facebook yesterday as a personal tribute.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum said the incident happened early on Saturday at the Harlequin mine, 9km north of Norseman.
Inspectors from the department's Resources Safety Division were due to arrive from Perth yesterday and mining operations have stopped while the investigation is under way.