West Australian mining company WMG, which owns a coal mine in the state’s Pilbara region, has been found guilty of a massive coal mine collapse that killed more than 600 people and damaged 1.5 million homes.
The mine collapsed on August 24, 2015, after heavy rain and high winds caused the underground mine to collapse into a mine shaft.
WMG CEO Paul McLean said the company was sorry for the loss of life, the damage to the surrounding community and the ongoing cost to the economy.
“It was a massive loss for the community and we’ve all been affected by this,” Mr McLean told reporters in Perth on Friday.
West Australian Premier Colin Barnett and his government have announced a $1.2 billion compensation package for the victims and the wider community.
Mr McLean is the head of the Western Australia Mining and Energy Association (WAMA), the body that represents WA mining companies, and has been involved in the industry since its inception in 1984.
He has been a member of the WAMA board for 10 years, and his membership includes mining giant Rio Tinto.
His father, Paul Mclean, was a miner, and a former WA Labor MP, before moving to the WA Government.
Paul McLean was in Perth with his son, who was also at the court hearing on Friday, when the hearing began.
After the hearing, Mr Mclean told the ABC’s ABC TV that he was “devastated” to learn of the coal mine tragedy.
But he also said it was important to remember the damage the collapse did to the Pilbara.
“[It was] devastating, devastating, catastrophic,” he said.
It was such an important part of the economy, he said, “that you’d have a couple of days to see a coal mining company and think ‘that’s pretty scary’.” Mr Barnett said he would not allow WAMA to have to bear any additional costs for the miners involved.
WAMA also had to pay compensation for workers who lost their lives in the collapse.
Earlier on Friday afternoon, Mr Barnett said that “no-one was spared” in the mining disaster.
When asked about the coal mines collapse, WAMA president Mike Jones said: “No-one escaped.
No-one went out in the open and walked into a hole.”
Mr Jones said that the WA government would not have survived without the coal industry, and called on WA to invest in its coal industry to create jobs and a “green economy”.
“The WA Government is very keen on the coal mining industry and the investment it’s bringing to the state,” he told ABC Radio Perth.
However, WA’s mining industry has been hit by a number of other recent coal mine disasters in the last year.
In July, the company at the heart of the collapse, Rio Tinsa, was forced to close and pay out more than $7 billion in compensation after it was found to have breached its obligations.
More than 20 people were killed when a landslide ripped through the Mount Tabor coal mine, in the Pilbariums South West region.
On September 4, a huge landslide hit the West Australian town of Pilbara, destroying dozens of homes.