A COAL company that went into liquidation only two years after resuming operations at a Lake Macquarie colliery has been fined $180,000 after a 2016 incident that left a new worker with a serious head injury.
An underground mine hazard that was "actually known" by Lake Coal Pty Ltd before the January 22, 2016 put Benjamin Pedersen, 25, at risk of death or serious injury on his first day at the Mannering Colliery site.
"There was a complete failure by the offender to act proactively to ensure that the risk controls it had identified... were implemented," District Court Judge David Russell said last week after finding Lake Coal guilty of the criminal offence of putting a worker's life at risk.
"There is no evidence as to why those measures had not been carried out."
Mr Pedersen was left with a serious head injury with ongoing scarring and pain after he was directed to drive a vehicle into an underground tunnel where the road height undulated, and where part of a damaged metal roof support known as a W-strap was dangling directly in his path.
A modified vehicle used at the Mannering mine for the first time on that day twice collided with the W-strap and dangled from the roof before Mr Pedersen was directed to drive through.
A later inspection showed the W-strap was significantly damaged because of previous collisions.
"The steps which could and should have been taken by the offender were simple, practicable and relatively inexpensive," Judge Russell said.
"Underground mining operations can be very dangerous, when safety precautions are not observed. Operators in the mining industry generally, and in underground mining operations, must observe their work, health and safety duties, because of the significant risks involved."
"The injury sustained was clearly serious but could have easily been worse, with the risk of death a genuine possibility," Judge Russell said.
The incident occurred during a "hectic" time at the Mannering Colliery site as it transitioned back to operations. Mr Pedersen returned to work at the mine for a short while after the incident but eventually resigned.
Lake Coal and associated company LDO were part of a group of companies which operated Mannering Colliery and neighbouring Chain Valley Colliery which provided coal to Vales Point power station.
By October, 2018 administrators were appointed to Lake Coal and by March this year the company was wound up.
Small and medium companies are owed more than $15 million after the collapse of Chain Valley Colliery in October and sale to Vales Point power station owner Delta Electricity on April 1.