Family waiting for answers 12 months after tragic mine death

FAMILY and friends of a mine worker killed on New Year's Eve in 2018 are still waiting for answers, 12 months on from the tragedy.

Gracemere father Allan Houston, 49, was working at BHP Mitsubishi Alliance's Saraji Coal Mine near Moranbah about 10.25pm 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 18 metres below.

Mr Houston was found in the cabin with his seatbelt fastened, but did not survive.

The investigation into the tragedy by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy is ongoing and a final report is yet to be released.

WAIT FOR ANSWERS: Allan Houston was fatally injured when his bulldozer turned over at BMA’s Saraji Coal Mine, near Moranbah, on December 31, 2018.
WAIT FOR ANSWERS: Allan Houston was fatally injured when his bulldozer turned over at BMA’s Saraji Coal Mine, near Moranbah, on December 31, 2018.

Workers across BMA's Queensland mines paused for a minute's silence on December 31 to mark the first anniversary of Mr Houston's death.

A plaque was also unveiled at Saraji later that afternoon to commemorate the miner, known affectionately as "Big Al".

A DNRME spokesman said investigations into the nature and cause of mine safety issues were thorough.

"The Inspectorate takes all safety issues seriously … Further information will be provided as appropriate alongside any potential enforcement action," he said.

In March last year, the department released an initial report on Mr Houston's death, but it did not determine a cause.

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

The findings of BMA's internal Incident Cause Analysis Method investigation were released in July.

The investigation put forward three potential scenarios for the cause of Mr Houston's death, which included an underlying medical condition, loss of control due to environmental factors or a bump to the head.

But ultimately, this probe also failed to determine the direct cause.

BMA's Saraji Coal Mine near Moranbah.
BMA's Saraji Coal Mine near Moranbah.

A BMA spokesman said recommendations from the ICAM probe had been implemented and no further updates were expected.

"In addition, BMA has also provided assistance to the Mines Inspectorate's ongoing investigation of the incident and will continue to assist as required," he said.

"Safety continues to be the number one priority at all of our mines.

"We fully participated in the Queensland safety reset instigated by the State Government following the deaths that have occurred in the resources industry over the past 18 months."

The mining giant held its own safety standdown in November, where 150 BMA staff gathered in Moranbah over two days to discuss and assess safety.

Mr Houston's death was just the start of what would end up being one of the most deadly years in Queensland's mining history.

A further four Queensland mine workers died in the months following, including Bradley Hardwick, David Routledge, Jack Gerdes and Brad Duxbury.