MINING can’t be considered safe until ‘‘we stop killing workers’’, a senior union official has said in the wake of the Paxton disaster.
Aberdare’s Jamie Mitchell and Metford’s Phillip Grant were crushed to death working underground at the Austar coalmine on Tuesday night.
The men were operating a continuous miner 500metres underground and 10kilometres from the tunnel entrance when a section of wall, about 15metres long and several metres high, exploded.
It released tonnes of coal that crushed the men to death about 9.15pm.
More than 1800 miners have been killed in the region’s mines since 1801.
CFMEU Northern District president Peter Jordan has called for a review of mining practices.
He said safe work processes within each mine had helped to eliminate injury and fatality but improvements were still needed.
“We can’t say it’s safe until we stop killing workers,” Mr Jordan said.
“All parties, the employees, union, the government, and the regulators need to do more work to ensure the industry becomes safer.
“What works at one mine might not be the entirely right procedure at another.
“It’s about making sure the mine plan, procedures and safe working systems are adequate for the nature of work being carried out.”
Cessnock MP Clayton Barr yesterday backed calls to improve mine safety.
He said Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts had pledged his support to Mr Mitchell’s and Mr Grant’s families and would do “whatever needs to be done”.
Mr Barr was confident the government would act even if Mr Roberts, who has been mooted as the state’s next treasurer in the cabinet reshuffle, was given another portfolio.
But it seems widespread change is unlikely to happen until the investigation into the Paxton accident has finished, which could take several months.
Investigators yesterday continued their inspection of the site where the men died.
Police, investigators attached to the NSW Trade and Investment, Infrastructure and Services mine safety office and CFMEU investigators, who are former coalminers, are working together to determine what happened.
Investigators will look at every factor that could have contributed to the accident and their evidence will form part of the incident report.
Mr Mitchell and Mr Grant’s bodies were recovered on Thursday, ending a 44-hour vigil their co-workers started after learning their mates had died.
Between 60 and 80 of them stayed at the mine to ensure their mates were not alone “down there”.
They formed a guard of honour as each body was carried out.
Two survivors of the disaster, Brent Nolan and Chad Law, this week told the Newcastle Herald they would never forget their mates.
“When you’re underground you look after each other’s back ... They were like brothers to us down there,” Mr Law said.