Allan Houston.
Allan Houston.

Details of case against BMA over CQ mine death

UPDATE: MINING giant BMA and one of its executives are accused of failing to identify serious health and safety risks after a dozer operator drowned in a pool of mud at Saraji mine.

Allan Houston died on December 31, 2018 when his dozer rolled 18 metres off an embankment.

Barely 12 months later the Department of Natural Resources, Mining and Energy has charged BMA Coal Operations and manager of production overburden Timothy Neil Fuller with three counts of failing to discharge health and safety obligations over the death.

DNRME has alleged that no control measures were in place to minimise the serious risks, and as a result Mr Houston died.

Court documents filed at Mackay courthouse state Mr Houston had been working on ramp two, Bauhinia Pit, where dragline bench preparation was being conducted.

TRIBUTE: A plaque was unveiled at Saraji to mark the first anniversary of Allan Houston’s death.
Allan Houston, 49, died at Saraji mine on December 31, 2018.

The documents state the work involved up to three dozers at a time working on the bench, removing large boulders and reducing the level.

Prior to this two sections of ramp two had been blasted, which resulted in dirt and rock mixing in a large pool of water underneath.

Mr Houston had been working the night shift with two other dozer operators when, about 10.25pm, his dozer "began tramming out parallel to the bench edge".

He passed another operator, who was pushing at about a 70 degree angle to the low wall bench edge, before his dozer changed direction to the left and closer to the edge.

Mr Houston's dozer drove over the low wall edge, rolling about 18 metres down an embankment and coming to rest upside down in a pool of mud and water.

Court documents state BMA's safety and health management system, that applied at Saraji mine, "did not include a procedure for dozer push bench operation".

DNRME also alleges BMA's health and safety procedures for risk management and working in and around water were not implemented on this occasion.

"No risk assessment was completed for the task of dozer push bench preparation," the documents state.

"The presence of water and mud was not identified as a hazard for work being conducted on ramp two."

The documents also allege BMA failed to ensure the site senior executive, who had been appointed on December 5, 2018, had developed and implemented a safety and health management system for the mine, and if that had been done Mr Houston's death would have been avoided.

Mr Fuller was responsible for all truck and shovel burden excavation activities and drill and blast activities and management of open cut mines, which included the work Mr Houston was undertaking.

DNRME alleges Mr Fuller failed to ensure the development of procedures for commonly undertaken work, the training and implementation of procedures for hazards that coal mine workers might be exposed to and the training and implementation of risk management procedures.

BMA was contacted for comment but a spokesman said that as the case was before the court "it is not appropriate for us to comment further".

In the past year, DNRME has also commenced proceedings against two Queensland quarry operators and their representatives in respect of two fatal incidents that occurred in 2018, alleging breaches of safety and health obligations causing death.

Other proceedings are also underway in relation to alleged breaches of safety and health obligations causing serious injuries to a coal mine worker at Glencore run coal handling and preparation plant.

EARLIER: CHARGES have been filed against BMA over the death of miner Allan Houston at its Saraji operation in Central Queensland in late 2018.

The Australian this morning reported the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy filed the charges in the Industrial Court in Mackay, against mining giant BMA and a BMA representative.

The newspaper reported the claim alleged "breaches of statutory safety and health obligations resulting in the death of Mr Allan Houston".

The prosecution has shaken BMA - a BHP Mitsubishi Alliance - with the company's asset president, James Palmer, conceding to staff it was "deeply disappointing news".

READ MORE: Charges laid over death at Saraji coalmine

The charges come after it was reported earlier this month Mr Houston's family were still waiting for answers over the tragedy which rattled the state's mining industry.

The investigation into the tragedy by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy was ongoing.

A final report was yet to be released.

Mr Houston, 49, died on New Year's Eve 2018 when his dozer rolled and fell 18m off an ­embankment, landing upside down in a pool of mud and water.