05:07 pm, Monday 5 March, 2012
Edith River Derailment. Picture courtesy of www.news.com.au
The investigation into the derailment of a train carrying copper concentrate near Katherine in the Northern Territory on December 27, 2011 continues, with the drivers of the train being cleared by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau. The report states that the ‘drivers were suitably qualified, competent and medically fit’. Investigations will now continue into the role of track operator Genesee & Wyoming. A decision was made by them to proceed with the dispatch of the train in the face of a severe weather warning. Flash flooding as a result of the tropical low caused damage to the area around the river crossing apparently leading to the derailment.
The environmental contamination following the derailment has resulted in far reaching concerns. In April of 2011, new legislation required that copper concentrate be transported in wagons with hard sides and lids. According to Executive Director of NT WorkSafe,Laurene Hull,NTWorkSafe approved transitional arrangements for OZ Minerals to continue using soft topped wagons until the end of 2011 to allow time for the commissioning, design and importation of wagons to meet the new requirements. This decision may, in part, be responsible for the contamination of the spill site and surrounds.
NT WorkSafe has been in the position to evaluate its own role in this decision without the requirement for an independent review. According to Northern Territory News, the Attorney-General believes there is no conflict of interest, and that as the regulator it was the correct body to investigate its decision. However, CLP shadow attorney-general John Elferink said that an independent body must conduct a meaningful investigation into the decision.