CuDeco has been directed to suspend mining operations at its Rocklands copper site in north-west Queensland following a safety audit by the Department of Natural Resources & Mines.
The company said DNRM had concluded that CuDeco’s safety and health management system did not support current activities, personnel and processes associated with the site, and therefore did not meet the requirements of the Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 (MQSHA).
The inspectors also reviewed the site’s risk assessment and determined it had not reviewed sufficiently nor comprehensively the current risks associated with the activities being undertaken, and that the site-wide risk assessment was out of date, with the last review undertaken in late 2015.
CuDeco’s newly appointed interim chairman Peter Hutchison said: “The health and safety of our workforce is our number one priority. We will endeavour to address this issue as quickly as possible for the benefit of all our employees and contractors, and ultimately, shareholders.”
Rocklands, 17km west of Cloncurry, was officially opened in October 2016 after a $640 million build and is still ramping up production levels towards its nameplate capacity of processing 3 million tonnes of ore per annum.
The company confirmed it had stopped operations until such time as it completed a review and update of its safety and health management system, including the site risk register.
Under the DNRM directive, the company is permitted to continue loading concentrate that is currently at site, and to operate plant and equipment to keep the site safe.
CuDeco said its crushing plant was undergoing a scheduled maintenance shutdown and that this work had been allowed to continue.
“With the signing of the mining contract imminent, the mobilisation of the mining fleet may also commence during the suspension period, with mining anticipated to commence after the directive is satisfied to the DNRM’s requirements,” the company said in a statement to the market.
News of the safety issue comes amid a flurry of change in the CuDeco leadership ranks – with managing director Dr Dianmin Chen’s resignation date brought forward to this week. Joseph Skrypnuik will continue to act as acting general manager for the Rocklands project.
Former Walz group chief executive officer Mark Gregory came on board as CEO for Rocklands this week, while last week saw the resignation of Dr Noel White as CuDeco chairman and as a director of the company.