Independent report on Tasmanian mine safety finds serious cracks in regulations

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Mount Lyell - Tasmania Image credit: flickr User: ccdoh1

An audit report prepared by Professor Michael Quinlan has found that there are critical deficiencies in Tasmania’s mine safety regulations.

Mount Lyell - Tasmania Image credit: flickr User: ccdoh1
Mount Lyell – Tasmania
Image credit: flickr User: ccdoh1

Professor Quinlan’s audit of the state’s mine safety system – which came just three months after three men were killed at the Mount Lyell mine on Tasmania’s west coast – described the Tasmanian regulatory framework as “deficient in a number of regards” and recommended an urgent review of existing rules.

“It’s imperative critical gaps in existing rules be addressed because most, if not all, are pivotal to preventing fatal accidents,” his report said, reports ABC.

In addition, Professor Quinlan said funding for mine inspectors was inadequate and unsustainable, and that the inspectors themselves were overstretched and poorly paid.

His report said that there was effectively only “one mine-engineering qualified inspector available on a full-time basis to carry out regular inspections” and that no-one in the inspectorate was qualified to audit the safety of coal mining, which he described as a disturbing and “a very serious gap”.

Upper House MP Ruth Forrest concurred with Professor Quinlan’s notion that safety was being compromised because inspectors were overworked and under-resourced.

“Whilst the areas of concern were identified as under resourcing in the inspectorate, the need to perhaps use expertise from other jurisdictions where we didn’t have the expertise in the state or couldn’t afford to have those people on staff all the time, that appears not to have been actioned,” she said.

Production at Mount Lyell has been suspended until further notice as the coroner and Workplace Standards are still investigating the three fatalities at the mine.