Beaconsfield Mine disaster and what was learned

December 4, 2017 Tara

One mine disaster in Australia could have been much worse and there were lessons learned that are applied today to prevent a re-occurrence.

In 2006 a small earthquake created a disaster for miners at Beaconsfield. The Tasmanian mine become home to trapped miners for fourteen days, while 14 other miners were able to scramble to safety after the initial quake. While administrators believed three miners were trapped the real number was two as one of the three had already been killed in the collapse.

The two miners were trapped beneath rubble and one of them was unconscious for a time. When both were awake they worked together to free themselves. They survived by drinking groundwater that dripped through the rocks and shared half a muesli bar. When rescuers got close enough to find them the men were sent supplies and letters from their families. It took another week for the rescuers to free the men. Over ten years later both of the men still experience anxiety.

What was learned from the disaster? The mine itself instituted new procedures and mining methods to convince authorities it was safe enough to reopen (which it did, 18 months later). Many mines are now using remote-controlled loaders to go in and do the work that was previously carried out by humans. While humans are still required to go into the drill tunnels, they aren’t to a point where their safety would be affected by small seismic activity.

Additionally, new laws were put in place requiring employers to carry out rigorous risk assessments that must be updated with any changes that may occur in the workplace.

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