Two companies have been fined $51,000 over the spontaneous failure of a raw water tank at the Carina iron ore mine in 2018, which displaced key pumping infrastructure.
Crushing Services International (CSI) was fined $31,250 by the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court in WA and ordered to pay $3,861 in costs, while Polaris Metals was fined $20,000 and ordered to pay $3,861 in costs.
Both companies pleaded guilty in the Kalgoorlie Magistrates Court for failing to ensure employees were not exposed to hazards.
While no workers were in the vicinity when the 600,000L raw water tank failed, the outrush of water affected an operational area of 24,000m2, displacing pumping infrastructure, ladders and associated debris.
Mines Safety Director at the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety, Andrew Chaplyn, said the failure could have caused serious injury or fatalities at the site.
“While no one was injured, two CSI employees were working in the crushing plant and another four were in or around the administration buildings,” Mr Chaplyn said.
“CSI employees also passed the tank several times a day, while Polaris workers conducted twice-daily checks.
“The risk to employees was high and it was only good luck that no one was hurt.”
The structural integrity of the tank had deteriorated substantially due to corrosion, despite the servicing instructions stating it should have visual inspections annually, including checks to all external surfaces.
CSI and Polaris failed to undertake any formal inspections, despite employees reporting leaks.
Polaris obtained a quote to replace the tank’s liner in November 2015 and an updated quote in March 2016.
The replacement liner was never ordered or installed and employees noticed the tank was still leaking in 2017.
Mr Chaplyn said mine operators must ensure tank structures and components are maintained in a safe and stable condition, and that appropriately trained and experienced workers undertake repair work.
Polaris had responsibility as the principal employer at the Carina mine, which is about 100km north-east of Southern Cross, while CSI was responsible for operations at the site of the incident.