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Heartbroken tributes to miner, as colleague fights for life

AWU on deadly Ballarat mine accident

Source: AAP

Heartbroken friends and family have paid tribute to 37-year-old Kurt Hourigan, who died in a collapse at the Ballarat Gold Mine that has also left a co-worker fighting for his life.

“I still can’t believe you are gone,” Reece Hourigan posted to Facebook.

“Our brother, our best mate, our son Kurt Hourigan… we are so broken without you,” Stephanie Coleiro said.

“A dedicated father and friend of many, Kurt always pushed himself to give 110 per cent and will be missed my all,” the Bruthen Football Netball Club said.

Hourigan, a 37-year-old father of two young children from Bruthen, in Victoria’s east, died in Wednesday’s mine collapse.

kurt hourigan mine collapse

Kurt Hourigan died in Wednesday’s mine collapse in Ballarat. Photo: Facebook

A 21-year-old Ballarat man who was also working deep underground in the central Victorian mine is fighting for his life in Melbourne’s The Alfred hospital. He was flown there with lower leg injuries hours after becoming pinned underneath fallen rocks, and remained in a critical condition on Friday.

The collapse happened 500 metres underground and three kilometres from the mine’s entrance. A further 29 miners took refuge in a safety pod before being brought to the surface.

Victoria Police is preparing a report for the coroner while the workplace health and safety regulator is investigating the collapse.

It was described as a complex and tragic incident by WorkSafe’s executive director of health and safety Dr Narelle Beer.

She said access to the mine would be prohibited as the organisation examined what happened before the collapse, safety systems and any possible regulation breaches.

“We’ll certainly try to understand if there’s anything that could have been prevented or avoided or if there’s any recklessness or negligence,” Beer said on Thursday.

‘Fallen on deaf ears’

Australian Workers Union Victoria state secretary Ronnie Hayden said it was devastating that a worker had lost their life and claimed other employees had flagged concerns about safety at the mine.

“Our members have raised concerns about this style of mining and it seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

Hayden said the workers were performing a manual form of mining called air-legging, which he claimed was not safe.

He called on WorkSafe to use Victoria’s workplace manslaughter laws and bring charges against any individuals responsible.

Hayden earlier claimed the mine’s senior safety manager had been redundant. But mine owner Victory Minerals said the redundancy involved a corporate staffer.

“No safety professionals working underground in the mine were made redundant in the recent restructure,” a spokesperson said.

“In fact, we increased safety professional resources within the underground.”

The company took over the Ballarat gold mine in December 2023.

WorkSafe said there have been 10 confirmed workplace fatalities in 2024.

-with AAP

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