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Guilty Verdicts Returned for Mining Tragedy

7 December 2007

Guilty Verdicts Returned for Mining Tragedy

The Department of Labour welcomes the Judge’s decision in the Health and Safety prosecution following the Black Reef Mine tragedy.

Judge Weir returned four guilty verdicts in the Greymouth District Court today ending an extensive and thorough investigation into the death of West Coast Miner Robert McGowan.

Mr McGowan was killed when a large volume of water from a nearby abandoned mine flooded the Tiller Mine near Greymouth.

The Department of Labour investigation found that a number of significant failures by the mine manager and consultant geologist resulted in the death of Mr McGowan and charges were laid under the Health and Safety in Employment Act.

Black Reef Mine Ltd, the employer of Mr McGowan had earlier pleaded guilty to two charges relating to the incident.

The Department again extends its deepest sympathy to Mrs McGowan, and is committed to ensuring that the lessons from this case are shared with the mining industry, so that tragic events like the death of Robert McGowan are not repeated in New Zealand mines.

The sentencing has been laid down for 29 January 2008.

ENDS


Background:

At about noon on 8 March 2006, miner Robert McGowan was killed when a large volume of water from nearby abandoned mine workings inundated the Tiller Mine, near Greymouth. Tiller Mine is owned by Black Reef Mine Ltd.

Mr McGowan, who was working in Tiller Mine with mine manager Gary Haddow, was swept away. His body was recovered by rescue workers 14 hours later. Mr Haddow survived but was trapped underground for more than six hours before being rescued.

The Department of Labour launched an immediate investigation into the fatality. Its scope was to assess the safety systems and work methods in place at Tiller Mine at the time of the incident, and how these impacted on the events that led to Mr McGowan’s death.

The Department engaged an independent senior mining inspector from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries to review the investigation report into the incident.

A total of 6 charges under the Health and Safety in Employment Act and associated Regulations were laid against Black Reef Mine Ltd , mine manager Gary Haddow (3 charges) and a consultant geologist (1 charge) – the consultant geologist currently has name suppression.

Each charge carries a maximum penalty of $250,000.

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