Rescue team gets ready

MATE LOST: Josh Ufer.
MATE LOST: Josh Ufer.

A CRACK team of Bowen Basin mine rescue personnel, including a contingent from Emerald and Moranbah, has gone to New Zealand’s Pike River to help bring home their mates.

Middlemount’s Josh Ufer, 25, and the Fraser Coast’s Willy Joynson, 49, are entombed with 27 of their colleagues after a second, more powerful explosion ripped through the mine on Wednesday morning; cruelling any hopes of survivors.

Fifteen Queensland mine rescue staff, the majority Dysart-based and under the leadership of Wayne Hartley, flew out on Wednesday night at the request of management to help extinguish the fire underground.

Only when the mine is stabilised can any recovery efforts begin.

Anglo American’s Metallurgical coal business chief executive officer Seamus French revealed Mr Ufer had worked at the company’s Middlemount operations before joining the ranks at Pike River.

“The tragedy affects every one of us in the mining community,” Mr French said. “Our thoughts are with the loved ones of those who perished including the family and friends of Josh Ufer who had lived at Middlemount and worked at our Capcoal operations.”

“Anglo American has offered every support to the Queensland Department of Mines and Energy and has deployed two operators from our Moranbah North mine to assist at Pike River.

“We will continue to offer every assistance and support we can over the coming weeks.

“This devastating event only reinforces the importance of mine safety across the industry in Australia and abroad.”

Rio Tinto’s Kestrel underground mine also has contributed a man to the rescue squad.

“Since learning of the situation, our thoughts have focused on how we may provide assistance if needed,” said Kestrel general manager of operations, John Coughlin.

“One of our employees is part of the 15-member crew from the Queensland Mine Rescue Service which has been sent to Pike River to assist. The crew will provide equipment and resources to assist in recovery efforts at the mine.” In a twist of fate, a former Kestrel miner, Steve Ellis, left to take up a management role at Pike River last week. Mr Hartley foreshadowed the possibility there would be no miracles at Pike River when he spoke to Central Queensland News.

“A disaster of this sort of magnitude is just awful,” he said. “These are miners and even though they have biological families, they are families you get to know and work with in the mining game.”

“A disaster of this sort of magnitude is just awful”

Wayne Hartley

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