Top: Anglo American's Grosvenor mine. Below: Donald Rabbitt, David Routledge and Jack Gerdes.
Top: Anglo American's Grosvenor mine. Below: Donald Rabbitt, David Routledge and Jack Gerdes.

Mine safety: Disasters, tragedies and triumphs of 2020

It has been a year of incredible highs and lows for Queensland mining.

One of the biggest mine disasters in recent history rocked the industry, paving the way for the first ever Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry.

Two weeks after the Grosvenor mine blast, tough new mine safety laws passed in Queensland parliament to establish industrial manslaughter as an offence in mines and quarries.

Here are the major mine safety disasters, tragedies and triumphs of 2020:

 

January 13: Tragic twist in fallen miner's last minutes on shift

A mine contractor was just minutes from the end of his Sunday shift when tragedy struck, etching his name into the shameful history of mining deaths that have rocked the region.

Donald Rabbitt, 33, was a contractor at Curragh Coal Mine near Blackwater and was working in the maintenance department when he became trapped under a piece of heavy machinery.

Mr Rabbitt suffered critical injuries in the incident about 4.20pm Sunday and died at the scene.

 

February 20: 'He lives on in our hearts': Family pays tribute to miner

The widow of fallen Moranbah miner Bradley Hardwick admits she screams and cries in agony each time she hears about another mining death.

Lisa Hardwick spoke publicly for the first time about the pain she continues to endure a year on from her husband's death at Moranbah North mine.

Mrs Hardwick said the grief from her husband's sudden death had made simple tasks, such as dropping her children to school, a challenge.

The Hardwick family – Lisa, Bradley, Cooper and Isabella
The Hardwick family – Lisa, Bradley, Cooper and Isabella

March 17: New safety authority to 'champion' for QLD miners

Queensland's 66,000 resources workers now have their own health and safety authority after parliament supported the move in March.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the state's resources workers could now rely on a dedicated organisation to keep them safe at work.

Resources Safety and Health Queensland's role is to regulate the safety and health of the state's minerals, coal, petroleum and gas, quarry, small-scale mining and explosives workers.

 

March 20: Moranbah coal dust danger underestimated: scientist

New research has found Moranbah recorded the second highest rate of PM10 emissions out of the top 20 emissions areas analysed.

PM10 emissions are pollutants smaller than 10 micrometres, which can penetrate into the lungs.

James Cook University Associate Professor Gunther Paul was one of an international team of scientists who analysed Australia National Pollutant Inventory data for the years 2008 to 2018.

Dr Paul said he found it likely miners' exposure to dangerous coal dust had been underestimated, as the communities they lived in were polluted too.

 

May 6: Grosvenor mine disaster

Tragedy struck at Anglo American's Grosvenor mine on May 6, when four workers received horrific burns in an underground blast.

A fifth worker, Moranbah father Turi Wiki, was also injured.

The men face an ongoing recovery after spending months in hospital for treatment.

Operations are not expected to restart at the mine until the second half of next year.

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham announced a Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry in the wake of the Grosvenor mine blast.

The entry to Grosvenor Mine, near Moranbah. Picture: Daryl Wright
The entry to Grosvenor Mine, near Moranbah. Picture: Daryl Wright

May 20: Laws passed to jail bosses over mine deaths

Mine executives now face up to 20 years in jail if a worker dies because of their criminal negligence.

Tough new mine safety laws passed in Queensland parliament on May 20 to establish industrial manslaughter as an offence in mines and quarries.

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert said the laws would protect the state's 50,000 mine and quarry workers.

"This offence sends the clear message to employers and senior officers that the safety and health of their workers is paramount," Mrs Gilbert said.

As a mark of respect to killed Mackay miner David Routledge, mining industry workers changed their Facebook profile photos to the above image.
As a mark of respect to killed Mackay miner David Routledge, mining industry workers changed their Facebook profile photos to the above image.

June 26: Free lung health checks for mine, quarry workers

Earlier this year it was announced Queensland's 15,000 mineral mine and quarry workers would receive free lung health checks for life from September 1.

Under the State Government changes, every worker would have a chest X-ray read by at least two qualified radiologists as well as a lung function test.

This would occur when they start in the industry and at least once every five years during their career in the industry.

They can continue to have free respiratory health checks for life, if they want to, after they leave the industry.

 

July 9: Miner's death could have happened one of four ways

The father of a Central Queensland coalminer killed in a workplace incident says the family has received some closure a year on from the tragedy.

Jack Gerdes died at Baralaba North coalmine on July 7 last year when he was crushed between the retractable staircase and the body on a Komatsu PC4000 excavator.

His father Brian Gerdes has now received the Queensland Mines Inspectorate's final investigation report into the tragedy.

 

September 11: Mine inquiry report raises 'likely' cause

An early report into the horrific Grosvenor mine blast has pointed to the goaf area as a contributing factor in the underground methane ignition.

The Queensland Coal Mining Board of Inquiry interim report identified the probable cause of the explosion, based on a recording of the serious incident from the Explosion Risk Zone controller.

The board announced public hearings into Grosvenor Mine would be adjourned to next year.

It cited the scale of the investigation, delays from other mining authorities and practical and legal hurdles as reasons.

The Moranbah Miners Memorial. Picture: Daryl Wright
The Moranbah Miners Memorial. Picture: Daryl Wright

September 19: Reforms fall short as industry mourns fallen miners

Mine safety reforms have not gone far enough, retiring Mines Minister Anthony Lynham announced, as the state mourned the death of two miners.

In a solemn Miners Memorial Day service, Dr Lynham said the loss of Brad Duxbury and Donald Rabbitt, and the serious injuries five men suffered in the Grosvenor Mine blast, was evidence "the quest for a safe workplace never ends".

Dr Lynam said the annual service, which was livestreamed from Ipswich, was a "sobering reminder as to why safety must come first".

 

September 22: The senior CQ miners charged over high wall crush death

Three senior mine workers are facing charges over alleged serious health and safety breaches after South Mackay grandfather David Routledge was crushed to death following a high-wall collapse.

The 55 year old had been using a digger at Middlemount mine when the part of the high-wall collapsed and engulfed the machine just after noon on June 26 last year.

As a result, the digger's cabin was crushed and Mr Routledge was killed.

Site senior executive Darren Lee Cuthbertson, mine manager Darrin Brian Milner and open-cut examiner Neville John Whiteley have each been charged over Mr Routledge's death.

Operator Middlemount Coal Pty Ltd has also been charged over the fatal incident.

 

November 14: Storm destroys CQ mine workshop

Shocking images revealed the aftermath of a structure collapse at a Central Queensland mine site.

It is understood no one was injured when a storm destroyed a portable workshop at BMA's Peak Downs mine on Friday.

Some operations at the mine were paused as a result.

Facebook user Ash Tait said her partner who was on site at the time "literally thought he was going to die".

The collapsed workshop at BMA's Peak Downs mine.
The collapsed workshop at BMA's Peak Downs mine.

Subscriber benefits:

Your dose of Harry Bruce cartoons

Five ways to get more from your digital subscription

WATCH: Your guide to reading the Daily Mercury online

 

December 8: Wake of Grosvenor tragedy gives hope for burns survivors

May 6, 2020 is a date etched in the minds of many.

For the Moranbah community, miners and the wider industry, it is the day five men and their families' lives changed forever in a matter of seconds.

Until now, the Grosvenor mine blast that left five miners with horrific burns injuries has been associated with grief and pain.

But a new initiative aims to turn the terrible tragedy into a lasting legacy of hope for other burns survivors around the world.

Dr Deborah Simmons and the nursing team who treated the mine blast victims. Picture: Daryl Wright
Dr Deborah Simmons and the nursing team who treated the mine blast victims. Picture: Daryl Wright

Burnett truckie hospitalised after serious highway rollover

Premium Content Burnett truckie hospitalised after serious highway rollover

A man has suffered injuries after his truck rolled on Burnett Highway.

11 South Burnett rugby league players selected for Wide Bay

Premium Content 11 South Burnett rugby league players selected for Wide Bay

After a season away from the game, several South Burnett footballers have been...

BIG SPLASH: Waterpark development proposed for Burnett dam

Premium Content BIG SPLASH: Waterpark development proposed for Burnett dam

The South Burnett Regional Council have discussed seeking funding to build a...