Glencore's Ulan Coal is not required to admit guilt after a mine worker was left permanently injured

Undertaking: Ulan Coal mine.
Undertaking: Ulan Coal mine.

ULAN Coal mine will not be prosecuted after an incident that left a mine worker with permanent disabilities and unable to work again in an underground mine.

The NSW Resources Regulator accepted an enforceable undertaking requiring the mine to pay about $500,000, but without admitting guilt, for the incident on November 26, 2015 that left the mine worker with permanent and serious leg, hand and back injuries.

Regulator Lee Shearer discontinued prosecution of the Glencore-owned mine that was launched on November 24, 2017 after the company submitted an enforceable undertaking on April 4 offering to pay the $250,000 cost of the investigation, and $250,000 in industry and community programs

They include a mental health training seminar for workers at six mines including Ulan, Wilpinjong and Moolarben, a “communication training package” for industry and rehabilitation equipment at Mudgee Hospital and Gulgong and Rylstone.

In a decision released on Wednesday the Resources Regulator said the undertaking included a “commitment that the behaviour that led to the alleged contravention” had ceased.

The incident occurred in 2015 after a contractor was engaged to leak test used polypropylene pipes at the Ulan West underground mine. The pipes were to be used for the mine’s nitrogen line.

The pipes were inspected for damage and compressed air was used to test for leaks.

The worker was injured during the test of a last group of pipes when the pressure rose to about 650kPa. The regulator said a pipe end fitting coupled to the pressure manifold separated from the pipe end and knocked the worker off his feet. He suffered a leg fracture, hand and facial injuries requiring emergency surgery.

In October, 2017 the injured worker’s doctor advised he would never be able to return to the underground mining industry because of the permanent loss of full use of his right leg, left hand and back.

The regulator decision included details of Ulan creating a clerical position for the man to return to work, but of him not working after April, 2017.

Resources Regulator chief compliance officer Anthony Keon said the case “serves as a timely reminder to mining operators of their obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act”.

“The undertaking is considered significant, and will provide tangible benefits to the mining industry and the community,” Mr Keon said.

The decision to accept the undertaking was made after “careful consideration” and confirmed “as it provided for significantly better outcomes than prosecution alone would achieve”.

Ulan Coal’s two underground mines produce about 20 million tonnes of coal per year.