'Culture of cover-ups' leads to Australia's most lethal mines

A "culture of cover-ups" has led to a fatality rate for mines in mineral-rich Western Australia which is three times greater than that of any other Australian state.

Figures recently released by Safe Work Australia for the period from 2007-08 to 2010-11 indicate 16 mining workers died in Western Australia, compared to six in Queensland, five in New South Wales and South Australia and only two in Victoria.

Perth's Sunday Times reports that the latest figures from Safe Work Australia have already prompted Richard Seller, the director-general of the Department of Mines and Petroleum, to launch an investigation into the reasons for the heightened death rate.

Whistleblowers impute the increased figures to a "culture of cover-ups", as well as willful negligence and corruption. According to the Sunday Times companies are apprised in advance of visits by safety inspectors, fresh mining recruits are supplied with the correct answers to safety tests and mining safety teams have been suspended to cut costs following iron ore price dives.

While Western Australia accounts for a disproportionate share of the Australian resources sector its mining fatality rate remains greater than expected, accounting for almost half of all deaths in the industry despite employing only a third of the country's total mining workforce.