Tasmanian police believe it is “highly unlikely” a missing miner survived a earth collapse at a gold mine on the west coast.
Inspector Shane Lefevre told reporters on Friday morning the amount of debris that had fallen into the collapsed section of the Henty Gold Mine, located 30 kilometres north of Queenstown, made it “highly unlikely that our missing miner has survived”.
“Our thoughts immediately have gone out to the family and friends. This community is a mining community and it’s very devastated at the moment,” he said.
The man, aged in his 40s and believed to be from the nearby town of Queenstown, was operating a loader on a night shift about 700 metres underground.
Images from the drone have shown the cabin of the loader is completely underneath large and small rocks.
PYBAR Mining Services CEO Brendan Rouse said it is too dangerous to send crews to that part of the mine for a recovery effort, as rock was still collapsing on Thursday night.
“We’ll come up with a plan of how we’re going to do it. But it won’t involve putting people into the unsafe area,” he said.
“The area is quite isolated within the mine. It’s quite a big mine. It’s safe for people to access the mine, but obviously not in the exact area.”
Crews used a drone with three-dimensional laser technology in the search for the man, who went missing during a nightshift on Wednesday.
Earlier, Mr Rouse said workers raised the alarm about 4am on Thursday when the man failed to make contact.
A section of collapsed dirt was discovered on Thursday where the man was working.
The ABC reported a team of about 20 people went back down the mine on Friday morning, with the first crew entering the mine about 6am.
AWU national secretary Daniel Walton told the ABC crews were now using a new drone that would build a 3D model of the site.
“We hope in the next couple of hours, once that analysis is done, we’ll be able to get a clear indication as to what the safety and what the footprint looks like from the accident,” he said.
Henty Gold Mine has suspended operations while the search for miner, who has been missing since 4am, continues.https://t.co/orLuvOh86w
— Tasmanian Country (@Tas_Country) January 23, 2020
Search teams gathered to review the footage from the drone in order to assess their next operational steps.
Fears for the man’s safety grew exponentially since colleagues of the worker raised the alarm when they couldn’t contact or find him.
The man was working in the lower levels of the mine in a loader, in an area which was a 20-minute descent, filling a truck on night shift, Mr Rouse said.
“Emergency services have been involved, Worksafe Tasmania and the mining inspector are also involved,” Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein told reporters on Thursday.
“At this stage I can’t say much more than that other than our thoughts and prayers are obviously with the missing worker, his family and the other workers.”
Production at the mine has ceased indefinitely.
Mr Rouse said there was no indication of a seismic event around when the rock collapsed.