Northern Star’s $90,000 fine over miner’s death after collapse at hot Paulsens mine

Alicia PereraPilbara News

Northern Star Resources has been fined $90,000 for failing to take measures to prevent hazardous levels of heat which contributed to the death of a contractor at a Pilbara underground gold mine in 2015.

The gold miner was charged with failing to take practicable measures to ensure workers at the site were not exposed to hazards under the WA Mines Safety and Inspection Act, stemming from the death of a 28 year-old jumbo offsider working at its Paulsens gold mine, 180km west of Paraburdoo, on November 16, 2015.

The case was heard before Karratha Magistrate’s Court yesterday for sentencing after Northern Star had previously pleaded guilty to the charge.

A Department of Mines and Petroleum investigation had found the man had been working underground in hot and humid conditions and collapsed from heat exhaustion.

DMP prosecutor Melanie Smith told the court the mine’s ventilation system had not been properly maintained and the miner’s “adverse conditions procedures”, which required stopping work or resting, had not been properly followed.

She described the case as “serious” because heat stress was a well-known hazard on mine sites and measures were available to mitigate it. She called on the court to impose a sentence that would act as a deterrent to other mining companies.

Defence counsel Anthony Willinge said it was Northern Star’s first conviction of this type.

Magistrate Robert Young said he found the site ventilation system had not been properly maintained and the employer’s own policies not properly implemented.

However, he took into account Northern Star’s early guilty plea, remorse and co-operation with the investigation.

Mr Young said the seriousness of the offence warranted a sentence 30 per cent of the $400,000 maximum, or $120,000, before discounting another 25 per cent for the early guilty plea.

The defendant was also ordered to pay court costs.

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