Fatal coal mine collapse: Bodies recovered at Hunter Valley site

The bodies of both men killed in an underground mine collapse in the Hunter Valley have been recovered.

Philip Grant, 35, of Metford and Jamie Mitchell, 49, of Aberdare were killed when a wall collapsed at the Austar mine near Cessnock on Tuesday night.

Company owner Yancoal says a recovery effort for the bodies began early this morning, with the bodies of both men found today.

Jamie Mitchell’s uncle, George Mitchell, says the dangers of the job are always in the back of his mind.

“I’ve got boys in the mines, you think about it all the time… but you never think it happens to you [until] it does,” he said.

“It really hits you when it hits, that’s for sure.

“The whole mining [community] around this place, they’re all shattered.”

Yancoal Australia CEO Reinhold Schmidt says the operation started after a detailed risk assessment of the site.

“This was critical to ensure the safety of all personnel participating in the recovery operation,” he said.

“The recovery process has been largely undertaken by hand, and given the significant volume of material to be moved, it is difficult to predict how long it will take to complete.

“We are continuing to offer support to the families of the two employees at this difficult time and will keep them updated on the progress of the recovery operation.”

A detailed technical inspection of the site will also be undertaken to inform the incident investigation.

Yancoal says it has been working closely with emergency services and regulators since this incident occurred and will continue to assist throughout the investigation.

The man tasked with retrieving the bodies, Paul Healey from New South Wales Mines Rescue, says the depth of the coal mine posed some challenges.

“It’s one of the deepest mines in the area,” he said.

“It’s an old mine and it’s a deep mine so it does come with its separate challenges.”



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