The Beaconsfield
mine management was “reckless” in its blasting practices, says a local
resident who had been complaining about mining-related seismic activity
for four months prior to last week’s cave-in.

‘’Not once but twice the mine placed seismic recording devices in my
home, which showed that it was routinely subjected to mining induced
earthquakes measuring up to 2.1 on the Richter Scale,” local resident
Mick Wain said. ‘’I am simply staggered that the mine can do this up to
four times a day and not be breaking mining guidelines.”

Wain
told Crikey he had advised mine management that his home was being
damaged and he was sick of having it “incrementally demolished.” After
raising his concerns with a local councillor, Les Rochester, Wain was
informed that the council would meet mine management about the problem.

Rochester
said an in-camera meeting between mine management, West Tamar Council
and local member Michael Polley took place on February 15 .‘’The
meeting was addressed by mine manager Matthew Gill, with the mine
agreeing to repair damaged homes,” Mr Rochester said. ‘’I couldn’t
believe it when Mr Gill claimed his engineers said most of the homes
affected were of sub-standard construction.”

‘’I demanded to know if that was from when they were built, or now, as a result of mining, but he wouldn’t give me an answer.”

Another
source said Mr Gill had informed the meeting that some mine workers had
raised safety concerns about the increased frequency of seismic
activity due to a new blasting technique. ‘’I was astounded that such
an important meeting was held behind closed doors because it was deemed
to be detrimental to house prices and the mine’s public image,” he
said. ‘’It all comes back to the blasting process because after an
explosion there isn’t a set timeframe for a seismic event.”

“They
blast at one end of the tunnel, leave it for a while and then go back.
The problem is that a tremor could occur immediately or a month later,
the mine has the equipment to know which blast causes what earthquake.
Unfortunately one blast triggered a simultaneous seismic event and a
cave in was the end result.”

Mine management was unavailable
for comment, but local member Michael Polley said he attended the
meeting to be better briefed about structural damage occurring to
buildings in Beaconsfield. ‘’I was in favour of a public meeting and
one was held on March 2nd at the local community centre.” Mr Polley
said he couldn’t recollect if miner safety had been discussed at the
meeting.

‘’What I want to know is what does the February 15
meeting mean for duty of care with regard to the council, regarding a
lack of action, and will the coroner look at that aspect?” said
Rochester. ‘’In addition what is the exposure for West Tamar Council
ratepayers and liability in general?”

Peter Fray

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