Saraji Coal Mine.
Saraji Coal Mine.

Cause of fatal accident at CQ mine site remains a mystery

AN UNDERLYING medical condition, loss of control due to environmental factors or a bump to the head are three possible scenarios investigators probing the death of mine worker Allan Houston have put forward after failing to determine the direct cause of his death.

The Gracemere father, 49, was working at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance's Saraji Coal Mine near Moranbah at 10.25pm on December 31, 2018 when the dozer he was operating travelled over a bunded low wall edge and rolled down the embankment.

The dozer came to rest upside down in a pool of mud and water about 18m below.

Mr Houston was in the cabin with his seatbelt fastened and did not survive the incident.

BMA carried out an internal Incident Cause Analysis Method investigation, described as "lengthy and thorough" by a spokesperson for the mining giant.

But while three potential scenarios were put forward, the spokesperson stressed the direct cause of the incident could not be determined.

"While we were unable to establish conclusively the cause of Allan's death, there are a number of insights that we have gained from the investigation around our regular safety practices, management of risks and use of medications," the spokesperson said.

"We are actively sharing the learnings from the investigation throughout our operations, with contracting partners and the broader resources industry.

"Allan Houston's death was a tragedy that has had a deep impact on his family, friends and colleagues at Saraji mine, and has been felt by everyone at BMA and BHP more broadly."

In March, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy released an initial report into the incidents surrounding Mr Houston's death and also failed to determine a cause.

The department did however, put forward a number of recommendations for mines to consider in regards to dozer operations.

These included ensuring there was adequate edge protection to prevent equipment and persons from inadvertently going over the edge of an excavation and that there was adequate protection to prevent equipment from entering bodies of fluid and where practicable, fluid be removed before work commences.

It was also recommended that work methods used on benches achieved an acceptable level of risk, that work methods contained a specific traffic management plan for entering and exiting work areas, that if a machine was introduced to site and had the capability to transmit function/operational data, the system should be enabled and that there was vehicle access into pits where machinery was working on benches above.

The department has yet to release its final report into Mr Houston's death and was unable to provide comment by time of publication.

Mr Houston's death was one of six recorded at Bowen Basin mines and quarries in the past 12 months. His death followed that of a dump truck operator at a quarry near Collinsville on July 29, 2018 and a quarry worker at a site off the Peak Downs Highway near Clermont on November 15, 2018.

A further three mine workers have died since Mr Houston, including Bradley Hardwick who died on February 20 at Moranbah North Mine, David Routledge who died at Middlemount Coal Mine on June 26 and Jack Gerdes who died at Baralaba North Mine on July 7.

The spate of mine and quarry deaths sparked calls for an urgent safety overhaul at Queensland mines and on July 10, Mining Minister Anthony Lynham met with dozens of industry stakeholders.

The BMA spokesperson said the company was committed to safe operations at all of its mines, and would continue to work with government and industry partners to ensure all people returned home safely at the end of each day.