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Published: 14 Nov 2017
On 14 November 1996, four mineworkers were killed at Gretley mine in the Hunter Valley, while they were operating a continuous miner to develop a roadway.
A wall of water suddenly rushed into the heading from a hole in the face made by the continuous miner. That machine, weighing between 35 and 50 tonnes, was swept some 17.5 metres back down the heading where it jammed against the sides. The four men were engulfed by the water, swept away and drowned.
The water came from an older, flooded mine. The men were working with inaccurate maps which had been approved by the Department of Mineral Resources, which placed the old mine incorrectly.
The Inquiry which followed found that the tragedy was preventable. The Department and the mine owner were castigated. 43 recommendations were made that led to many important reforms.
Prosecutions were brought against the company and mine managers for breaches of the Occupational Health & Safety Act and were fined $1.46 million – a sum which could not assuage the grief felt by the families of lost men.
The victims were Edward Batterham, Damon Murray, John Hunter and Mark Keiser. The youngest, Damon Murray, was only 19 years old.
At a memorial service to mark last year’s 20th anniversary, Northern District President, Peter Jordan, said “The passage of time never truly diminishes the grief of those affected by the loss of a loved one. An inquiry or an inquest may mark the end of proceedings for some, but for the next of kin, it will never be over.”