License article

Two dead in Tasmanian mining accident

Australia's oldest operating mine has suspended operations after two workers fell more than 20 metres down a mine shaft on Monday.

The men, named by police as Craig Nigel Gleeson, 45, and Alistair Michael Lucas,  25, died of their injuries after the fall, deep underground at Mount Lyell mine on the Tasmanian west coast.

Police Inspector Matthew Richman said the men fell between 20 and 35 metres. One of the men was brought to the surface but died on his way to hospital, while the other died at the scene, police say. His body remained in the mine late Monday afternoon.

The maintenance workers were locals from the close-knit community of Queenstown, where the mine is the main employer, and their next of kin had been notified, police said.

"This is a sad day for us all,"  West Coast mayor Robyn Gerrity said. "Our sympathies go out to the families of those who didn't come home from work today.

"We've got a long history of mining and three mines currently operating," Mrs Gerrity said. "This is not the first tragedy, and it unfortunately won't be the last."


The men were members of the mine shaft maintenance crew, according to Copper Mines of Tasmania general manager, Scot Clyde.

After the accident at 9am, rescue teams from Mount Lyell and two other nearby mines raced to the scene, but they were unable to revive either man, Inspector Richman said.

Inspector Richman said it appeared that a shaft fall was to blame.

The company said in a statement it was offering support and counselling to the families and all affected by the tragedy. "All operations of the mine are suspended until the day shift tomorrow," it said.

Mining began at Mount Lyell in 1893 for gold, and it expanded into silver and copper before the 1912 North Lyell disaster in which 43 men died as a result of an underground fire.

Mount Lyell is controlled by the Indian-based Vedanta Resources and produces 30,000 tonnes of copper concentrate a year.

The Australian Manufacturing Workers Union's Tasmanian secretary, John Short, said Mount Lyell had problems in the past with mudslides, but he added: "We haven't had a lot of complaint in regard to safety generally at this mine."

Workplace standards investigators and a coroner are investigating the accident.