OK mine death sentence

Robin Chapple MLC, Member for the Mining and Pastoral Region, and Greens WA spokesperson for Mining matters, today lamented the all-too-predictable outcome of a failed system, whereby the Central Norseman Gold Corporation (in administration) was slapped on the wrist with a paltry $15,000 fine over the tragic death of the late Mr Rene Ponce while working in its OK mine in 2010.

“Mr Ponce didn’t come home from work that day – his family bears the emotional pain from the “accident” each and every day, a situation which in my view could have been avoided, caused by the conditions which prevailed deep under the ground of WA’s Goldfields on that tragic day”, said Mr Chapple.

“I use quotation marks around “accident”, because this incident was not a random Act of God, it was not unforeseeable, it was all too obviously the end result of a series of failings by the mine’s management. More alarming are the failings of the government agency charged with monitoring and enforcing safety standards for the well-being of the workers who put their lives on the line day-in, day-out, labouring in hazardous mine environments.  While we readily accept the economic benefits derived from mining, we have a responsibility to protect the lives of these workers.  It may be old-fashioned, but it is still true that because we can’t do this ourselves, we rely on government to oversee these matters for us”, Mr Chapple continued.

“This is where the Barnett/Grylls government through its Minister for Mining & Petroleum, Norman Moore, should hang their heads in shame after reading today’s Kalgoorlie Miner report of the Magistrate’s Court sentencing session.

The Parliamentary record shows that I asked a multitude of questions of the Minister, in the months leading up to this tragedy at the OK mine, in which I attempted to get some accountability for, and some action taken in respect to a range of these safety hazards in this very mine, only to be met with a “shut-up-shop” stonewall from the Minister on 10 August 2010, whereby he refused to accept any more probing into mine safety from me (Leg. Council Question 2516).

This effrontery was perpetrated just five days after Mr Ponce’s death, in what appears to be a callous act of indifference”, Mr Chapple concluded.

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