Will BHP Billiton finally take responsibility for their poor safety record in Australia?THE AUSTRALIAN
Matt Chambers

BHP Billiton could be charged over a 2009 Olympic Dam mine accident in South Australia where a falling ore skip plummeted hundreds of metres and shut down most of the mine’s copper and uranium production for six months.

A SafeWork SA spokesman said the department was still reviewing the accident and was considering whether charges should be laid. If charges were to be laid, they would probably be for failing to provide a safe work place, which has a maximum fine of $300,000 for a first offence.

Nobody was hurt in the October 2009 accident, but the falling skip caused substantial damage to the inside of the Clark shaft and to the gears and wheels that bring ore to the surface.

The loaded ore skip that fell sent another skip on a linked cable hurtling up into the headframe at the top of the Clark shaft.

BHP has said the accident was the result of computer braking system failure. SafeWork has until October to decide whether BHP should be charged.

In June last year, BHP was fined more than $75,000 over the death of a worker at Olympic Dam, after it ignored its own safety rules. The company was also ordered to pay $20,000 in compensation to the family of the worker, who was killed when he was struck by a heavy piece of equipment in December 2007.

In 2008-9, five people died at BHP’s West Australian iron ore operations and another in 2009-10 at a WA nickel mine.

WA state mining engineer Simon Ridge said all investigations into the deaths were complete and the findings had been handed to the Coroner.