Miners 'disgusted' at decision to keep working next door to dead colleague

·5-min read

Workers at a Queensland mine are disgusted after operations continued while rescue teams were still recovering a body from a horrific mine collapse at the underground site next door.

Graham Dawson, 62, was killed at the Sojitz Gregory Crinum operation last Tuesday night when the ceiling of the underground section collapsed and crushed him.

Two others were injured in the disaster, north of Emerald, including a 25-year-old man who was airlifted to Rockhampton Base Hospital with leg and pelvis injuries.

Graham Dawson, 62, was killed when an underground mine collapsed in central Queensland. Source: Facebook
Graham Dawson, 62, was killed when an underground mine collapsed in central Queensland. Source: Facebook

Formal operations suspended but some miners remained on-site

The operation owned by Sojitz Blue consists of the Gregory open-cut mine and the closed Crinum underground mine, where the tragedy happened.

The miners involved were working to repair the pit and ensure it complied with industry standards when the roof collapsed.

Sojitz Blue said work at the open-cut mine was suspended at the time of the incident, out of respect for those affected and didn’t recommence until after the body was recovered on Saturday.

“What we committed to is we would not put any mining machinery back to work,” CEO Cameron Vorias explained to Yahoo News.

“People deal with it differently. Some people elected to stay at work, some elected to go home and we respected both of those decisions. No one was forced to stay.”

The Sojitz Blue operation includes the Gregory open cut-mine and the adjacent closed Crinum underground mine, where a worker was crushed to death. Source: bhp.com
The Sojitz Blue operation includes the Gregory open cut-mine and the adjacent closed Crinum underground mine, where a worker was crushed to death. Source: bhp.com

Union ‘disturbed and disappointed’ over handling

But the call to allow any workers to remain on site has angered the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU), which called for a full shutdown.

“I am bitterly disappointed with the fact that the mine did not cease all activities and operations. It should have been managed a lot better, the mine should have completely stopped operation,” Mining and Energy Union President, Stephen Smyth told Yahoo News.

Mr Smyth said it showed a lack of dignity and respect.

“I have been getting calls and texts from miners since the day after the incident who are disgusted that the mine resumed production while mine rescue teams were undertaking the recovery of one of their brothers,” he said.

“Mineworkers at the mine have been told they can take annual leave if they are uncomfortable resuming normal duties – this is not good enough.”

When asked if this was the case, Mr Vorias told Yahoo News workers were “offered a whole range of options if they wished to grieve in their own way.”

Request for a ceremony knocked back

Mr Smyth claims Mastermyne, the contractor for Crinum, wouldn’t let workers hold a brief ceremony to mark the passing of one of their colleagues.

“This is unprecedented in the Queensland coal industry,” he said.

“Workers are still coming to terms with this fatal accident and mine management are treating them with zero respect, I have never seen this occur in the 33 years since I have been involved in the Queensland coal sector.”

Mr Vorias said management, who were in close contact with the Dawson family, felt it wasn’t appropriate at that point in time.

The decision to allow any workers to remain on site while the body was recovered has angered the CFMEU and nearby mining communities. Source: sojitzblue.com.au
The decision to allow any workers to remain on site while the body was recovered has angered the CFMEU and nearby mining communities. Source: sojitzblue.com.au

Community outraged over ‘disrespect’

Social media has been inundated with posts as word spread among nearby central Queensland mining communities that workers remained on-site following the accident.

“As a wife of a miner and daughter of a past miner, I just want to express my disappointment in the mining industry these days,” posted one woman to a private Facebook group for the Moranbah community.

“Never in a million years would the miners of yesteryears allow their men back underground while their workmate's body hadn’t been recovered,” the post continued.

“My dad was in the mines around 45 years ago and I know back then every pit would have been on the grass out of principle and respect. Just goes to show, money talks.”

The wife of a miner took to social media to slam the decision to not cease operations at the site. Source: Facebook
The wife of a miner took to social media to slam the decision to not cease operations at the site. Source: Facebook

Comments swiftly flooded in, with one person dubbing the move as “putrid”.

“Respect for the deceased should be first and foremost. The whole site should have walked off the job,” they wrote.

Another said: “It’s a no brainier. Shut the whole mine down. As all miners know that’s what should happen, nothing less.”

“This is disgusting, so disrespectful to not just honour the poor man who was killed, and his family who lost him but also his workmates who would have been like a second family,” another commented.

“Mateship and humanity it seems do not extend to the management of the company,” wrote another.

Many accused the company of putting profits before people.

“Production, production, production. No one gives a fly about anything else,” commented one Facebook user.

Another said: “Sadly, everything these days is about (dollar signs)”.

“Disgraceful, the whole world is ruled by green,”commented another.

“Sad when all they think about is the dollar,” wrote another.

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