OceanaGold accepts responsibility for the death of underground worker
OceanaGold has received a fine of $378,000 under the Workplace Health and Safety Act 2015, following its acceptance of liability for the death of Tipiwai Stainton in July 2016, and reparations of $350,000.
OceanaGold Waihi General Manager, Bernie O'Leary, said the company deeply regretted the loss of one of its staff and accepted that it was responsible for his death.
“Tip was our colleague, friend and a member of our Mines Rescue Team,” Mr O’Leary said. “He died at our mine, on our watch. We accept responsibility for what happened and have been working alongside his family to make sure that as a company, as workmates, and as friends, we continue to do everything possible to support them and prevent this from ever happening again”.
Tipiwai Stainton was killed on 28 July 2016 when the loader he was driving entered an underground void at the company’s Correnso mine in Waihi. Despite the efforts of OceanaGold's Mines Rescue Team, he died at the scene.
OceanaGold Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Mick Wilkes, who attended the sentencing, said the loss of the company’s employee had been deeply felt.
“Tipiwai was a valued and respected member of our Waihi team, whose workmates describe him as ‘mighty kauri’,” Mr. Wilkes said.
“Our operations adhere to global best practice safety standards, but we will always strive to improve those standards to protect our greatest asset, our people,” he said.
“Bernie O'Leary and our team at Waihi have been working to make sure this sort of tragedy does not happen again to one of our own, or anybody in an underground mine. The new work practices that they developed following this accident will raise standards across our industry.”
Bernie O’Leary said Mr. Stainton was operating his 50 tonne machine according to established industry and company practices for underground mines.
“Despite being industry standard, those practices were not good enough,” Mr O’Leary said.
“Immediately after the accident we commenced an extensive investigation and have modified our work methods so staff no longer undertake this activity, eliminating the possibility of this happening again. While it’s a positive development, we are very aware it won't bring our friend and colleague back.”
“Our new Standard Operating Procedure has been shared across all our operations, and with our industry colleagues in underground mining,” he said.
In making its judgement the Tauranga District Court acknowledged the actions OceanaGold took to provide care and reparations for the family of Tipiwai Stainton, immediately suspend operations, conduct a full investigation, cooperation with the regulatory authorities, and development of a permanent solution to a long-standing safety hazard for the mining industry.