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Incident Date

March 13, 2024

Victim

Kurt Hourigan, 37 years old

Injuries

One fatality (Kurt Hourigan) and one critical injury (21-year-old trainee)

Investigation

Conducted by WorkSafe Victoria

Mine Ownership

Victory Minerals, backed by a Singapore-based hedge fund

Safety Concerns

Prior warnings about the risk of rockfalls and the adequacy of ground support measures

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Introduction

A tragic rockfall at Ballarat Gold Mine resulted in the death of 37-year-old miner Kurt Hourigan and critical injuries to another worker, sparking an investigation by Victoria’s WorkSafe authority into the mine’s safety practices.

Incident Overview

In March, a rock collapse at the mine led to the death of Kurt Hourigan and severe injuries to a 21-year-old trainee. This incident has brought to light internal communications from the previous year, revealing concerns about the mine’s safety standards, particularly regarding handheld drilling and ground support.

Concerns Raised Prior to the Incident

Documents reveal that a geotechnical engineer warned the mine’s management about the risks of proceeding with an air legging trial without adequate ground support. The warning highlighted the potential for rockfall-related injuries and emphasized the need for a duty of care towards workers.

Management’s Response to Safety Measures

An internal memo from the mine’s management suggested a move away from a “blanket approach” to ground support, citing cost concerns. This approach has been criticized by experts and the union, emphasizing the need for strict safety protocols to protect miners.

WorkSafe Investigation

WorkSafe Victoria is conducting a thorough investigation into the incident, focusing on the mine’s safety practices, supervision, and whether appropriate support measures were in place at the time of the collapse.

Mine’s Operation and Ownership

The Ballarat Gold Mine, with a history dating back to the 1850s, came under new ownership shortly before the incident. The new management is cooperating with the investigations and has committed to addressing any legacy safety issues.

Implications for Workplace Safety

This incident underscores the importance of rigorous safety standards in the mining industry, particularly in underground operations where risks are heightened. The ongoing investigation aims to uncover the factors leading to the tragedy and implement measures to prevent future incidents.

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