Mining alert | Excavator engulfed after pit wall failure

July 9, 2019 Mining Editor

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy have released a mining alert regarding pit wall failure following the death of a mine worker at Middlemount Coal. The following information is an extract from the department’s website.

What happened in in the pit wall failure incident?

On Wednesday 26 June 2019 at approximately 12.20pm, a 55-year-old coal mine worker was fatally injured while he was operating an excavator at an open cut coal mine in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.  The coal mine worker was operating an excavator when an adjacent pit wall approximately 40 metres high suddenly failed. This resulted in the excavator engulfed by material from the wall and partially crushing the excavator’s cabin.

What equipment was being used when the incident occurred?

A 350 tonne excavator

What type of mining hazard was involved in the incident

Gravity and a fall of ground

What was the cause of the pit wall failure?

A cause has not been determined at this time.


While this incident involved an excavator conducting overburden removal, mines should consider the recommendations below for all activities conducted in open-cut excavations.



The mine Site Senior Executive should:

  • Ensure sufficient geotechnical data for safe pit design and modelling is collected, analysed, interpreted and communicated.
  • Ensure the geotechnical risk management strategy includes rockfall modelling to determine appropriate exclusion zones, capable of containing any potential rockfall material within the exclusion zone.
  • Ensure that a visual demarcation is placed along all exclusion zones.  Examples being: earth bund, witches hats or fencing.
  • Ensure a person with geotechnical competencies conducts scheduled geotechnical risk assessments of all pit walls in relation to stability.
  • Review their current controls to ensure risk to persons from geotechnical hazards is within acceptable limits and as low as reasonably achievable.
  • Review their current geotechnical monitoring program and associated Trigger Action Response Plans (TARPs) to ensure that they are adequate and effective.
  • Ensure adequate training programs are in place to enable all personnel to receive appropriate and regular training in geotechnical hazard awareness and have a clear understanding of the appropriate TARPs.

This Mining Alert was Authorised by Luca Rocchi – Chief Inspector of Coal Mines, Contact: Kevin Poynter, Regional Inspector of Mines, +61 7 4936 0125

Issued by the Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy

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