Chemical incident for local miners

The Department of Industry Mine Safety Investigation Unit is investigating a serious safety incident at the now-closed Manuka Silver Mine, 80km south of Cobar.

The Mine Safety Investigation Unit (MSIU) is looking into circumstances surrounding workers’ exposure to hazardous chemicals during a manual acid-leaching gold extraction process that occurred at the mine between October and November 2015.

“The process involved manually mixing nitric acid with gold ore slurry in stainless steel buckets.

“Several workers were involved in the process,” according to the MSIU report.

“This process was initially conducted inside the gold room but was moved outside when excessive nitric acid fumes were given off.

“During this process, the workers may have absorbed mercury and lead into their blood via their skin and through the inhalation of vapours. Several workers also reported skin and eye irritation conditions.”

The report said the workers involved may have suffered elevated lead and mercury levels in their blood both of which, even in small amounts, may cause serious health problems.

The mine operator, Black Oak Minerals Limited, which also owned the Mount Boppy Gold Mine at Canbelego, was placed into external administration in March this year and all operations at the mine have since ceased.

Steve Orr, the manager of the regulatory audit and investigation unit, said MSIU had issued this information to draw attention to the occurrence of the serious incident.