Mine death after drunken brawl
Part of the operation at the Tropicana mine.

Two investigations are under way into an alleged drunken fight that resulted in the death of a young truck driver at a Goldfields mining camp where alcohol restrictions are meant to be strictly enforced.

The victim, 28, was punched by a co-worker and is believed to have fallen and hit his head during what has been described as a heated late-night argument at AngloGold Ashanti's remote Tropicana mine site on May 19.

Medical staff at the camp were notified immediately but could do nothing to revive him.

The man who was alleged to have thrown the punch - a 29-year-old father of three from Perth - is understood to have taken his own life late last week.

The fight happened on a shift-change night when workers finish a week of day shifts at 6pm, then have a 24-hour break before starting night shift the following evening.

A worker who did not want to be named said some employees saw it as a "licence to go berserk" because they had plenty of time to get alcohol out of their systems before returning to duty.

"You have 24 hours before you have to blow in the bag, so if you want to you can get smashed," the worker said.

It is believed the men were friends and worked for the same contracting company, Macmahon Holdings.

"We are deeply saddened by this and we're working hard to understand what has occurred," a Macmahon spokesman said.

"We're working closely with our client and relevant authorities. Our focus continues to be on the safety and health of our employees and providing support to the families involved."

AngloGold vice-president of corporate affairs Andrea Maxey said mining operations were shut on the day of the death and counsellors were flown to the site to support staff.

She said it was inappropriate to comment on the circumstances surrounding the death because it was the subject of a police investigation.

The major crime squad confirmed yesterday that it was preparing reports for the State Coroner on both deaths.

The Department of Mines and Petroleum is holding its own investigation. Rules on alcohol consumption on site are expected to form part of that investigation.

It is believed the Tropicana mine site operates a "wet mess" that serves alcohol until 8.30pm on shift-change nights.

Workers can buy only two cans at a time but can go back for more as often as they like.

They can take away four open cans of mid-strength beer until 7.30pm.

The West Australian

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