MINING at the Beaconsfield goldmine has moved a step closer after Tasmania’s work safety regulator yesterday approved a resumption of blasting and drilling to make the mine deeper.
Workplace Standards Tasmania rescinded a ban on work on the mine’s main decline imposed after the Anzac Day rockfall that killed miner Larry Knight just over six months ago.
The decline is a downwards, spiralled road tunnel off which are constructed horizontal drive tunnels to production areas.
Allowing work to resume on the main decline is the first stage toward beginning production in new areas of the mine below 1090m. WST bans remain in place on the construction of drives to production stopes and on the extraction of gold.
A return to gold extraction is expected in the next few months after further approval of safe work plans by WST.
A full return to mining must also pass a financial analysis by mine management.
The Australian Workers Union has vowed to make its own judgment about safety before allowing its members to return to work. AWU national secretary Bill Shorten said he remained to be convinced the mine could be operated safely.
State secretary Ian Wakefield said the union would decide whether decline work could be done safety after receiving a briefing, most likely next week.
Mine joint venture manager Allstate Explorations welcomed the WST approval for resumption of work on the main decline, following a “rigorous” assessment of a safe work plan prepared by consultants.
“However, this is only the first step towards a return to production and we do not want to get ahead of ourselves,” said Allstate administrator Michael Ryan. “There is much more work to do before a decision can be made as to whether it is safe to restart mining activity.”
The decline work would only begin after talks with “key stakeholders” including the AWU. Allstate is also expected to call a public meeting in the northern Tasmanian town before resuming blasting to extend the decline from its current depth of 1090m to about 1220m.
There has been vocal opposition from some locals to the mine’s previous blasting regime, which the mine conceded was linked to “mini-earthquakes” that shook houses and caused underground rockfalls.
The decline work will be partly funded by taxpayers, as part of a $4.87 million grant by the federal Government to secure the mine’s future.