Miners Missing After Vehicle Fell Into 80ft Hole

Two mine workers in Australia are missing after their vehicle plunged into a deep hole in a zinc mine on Wednesday.

The men are thought to have fallen into a stope, a deep hole in the mine used to extract ore, at the Dugald River mine, around 100 miles northeast of Mount Isa in Queensland. The accident is thought to have occurred after a "ground collapse" in the mine that caused the vehicle to fall in.

"Paramedics have responded to a ground collapse at a location near Dugald River at 1.12 pm," Queensland Ambulance Service said in a now-deleted tweet.

mine shaft
Stock image of a mine shaft. Two workers are missing in an Australian mine and are feared to have fallen up to 80 feet. iStock / Getty Images Plus

ABC News Australia reported that the two men, employed by mining services company Barminco, were in a vehicle when a nearby drilling rig fell into the hole. While the worker in the rig escaped, the fall reportedly caused the ground to give way and the vehicle occupied by the two missing workers fell in.

The vehicle is thought to have fallen around 80 feet.

Falls from heights like this can be fatal. The median lethal distance for falls is around 48 feet, according to medical reference book Trauma Anesthesia, meaning that around half the people who fall from that height won't survive. The higher the drop, the deadlier the fall gets, as our fall speed gets faster and faster due to gravity's acceleration. One 2005 study published in the journal Critical Care Medicine found that of 287 fall victims, those who fell from 98 feet or higher had a 100 percent fatality rate.

However, due to the other factors involved in the fall, including the vehicle hitting the sides of the hole and crumpling on impact, it is possible that the workers may have been able to survive the fall: One couple survived a 300-foot fall inside their car in California in 2022.

Australian 9News reported that repeated attempts had been made to contact the missing workers via radio, but to no avail.

Mine owner MMG Limited told ABC News Australia that there had been no collapse of the mine structure.

"Two Barminco employees working at MMG's Dugald River mine in Queensland were this morning involved in an incident and currently remain unaccounted for," MMG said in a statement.

"The site's emergency response has been activated and is working closely with Barminco and authorities to assist in search and rescue efforts."

Dugald River mine mainly produces zinc concentrate, as well as lead and silver as by-products. The mine is "one of the world's top 10 zinc operations", according to owners MMG.

"Operations at Dugald River have been halted while the search is underway," MMG Limited said in the statement.

"MMG has extended all available resources and support to Barminco and the Dugald River mine."

The local community is anxious to find out the status of the missing workers, local politician Robbie Katter told ABC News.

"This kind of event is obviously the worst nightmare of any mining group," he said.

"My major concern is the wellbeing of these two employees and the task at hand to get them back safely to their families."

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