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Tributes flow for Kurt Hourigan, miner killed in Ballarat Gold Mine underground collapse

Kate Phillips, William Ton & Holly Hales
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Kurt Hourigan, 37, was killed when he was pinned by fallen rocks at the mine on Woolshed Gully Drive.
Kurt Hourigan, 37, was killed when he was pinned by fallen rocks at the mine on Woolshed Gully Drive. Credit: Supplied./Facebook.

Tributes have poured in for the father of two killed in an underground collapse at the Ballarat Gold Mine as a union boss lashed the mine’s safety measures.

Kurt Hourigan, 37, died after he was pinned by fallen rocks at the mine on Woolshed Gully Drive at Mount Clear, north-west of Melbourne, before 5pm on Wednesday.

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The miner’s body was recovered by Victoria Police on Thursday about 6am.

A second man, 21, from Ballarat was stabilised before he was taken out of the mine about 8.30pm on Wednesday with lower body injuries, police said.

He was later flown to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne and remains in a life-threatening condition.

Police said another 29 miners took refuge in a safety pod and were brought to the surface on Wednesday night.

Police have recovered the body of a Victorian miner who was trapped underground after a rockfall at Ballarat.
Police have recovered the body of a Victorian miner who was trapped underground after a rockfall at Ballarat. Credit: 7NEWS

The rockfall took place 500m underground and 3km from the mine’s entrance

Kurt Hourigan, 37, was killed when he was pinned by fallen rocks at the mine.
Kurt Hourigan, 37, was killed when he was pinned by fallen rocks at the mine. Credit: Supplied.;Facebook

Mr Hourigan’s brother Reece led the tributes.

“Mad dog I still can’t believe you are gone” he wrote.

“I have always looked up to you.

“Thank you for all the good and bad memories we have shared together. I love you so much brother.”

Stephanie Coleiro said the father of two young children will “never be forgotten”.

“Our brother, our best mate, our son Kurt,” she wrote.

“We are so broken here without you.

“I still don’t feel it’s real. I’m still waiting for you to walk in and say it’s just a dumb joke, I’m hungry!

“You were the best mate I could ask for. All the good and dumb advice. The cuddles when I’m balling my eyes out or just for a sitting with me and having a stubby on the couch!

“Our kids loved you so much, as you loved them. You will never ever be forgotten

“Love you and miss you so much mate.”

Police have recovered the body of a Victorian miner who was trapped underground after a rockfall at Ballarat.
Police have recovered the body of a Victorian miner who was trapped underground after a rockfall at Ballarat. Credit: 7NEWS

Australian Workers Union Victoria state secretary Ronnie Hayden said it was devastating that another worker had lost their life after some workers had flagged concerns about the mine.

“It seems to have fallen on deaf ears,” he said.

The two workers were undertaking a manual type of mining called air legging which involved drilling into a rock to create a tunnel, Mr Hayden said.

“They were working on unsupported ground, trapping both miners,” he said.

Australian Workers Union Victoria state secretary Ronnie Hayden speaks to media.
Australian Workers Union Victoria state secretary Ronnie Hayden speaks to media. Credit: CON CHRONIS/AAPIMAGE

Mr Hayden said air legging was not appropriate for the setting.

“This form of air legging should not be used to do this type of work,” he said.

“This was a quick, cheap and easy way to chase gold.”

Premier Jacinta Allan described the collapse as a terrible accident.

“If there is advice that comes where laws can be strengthened, we stand ready to do that work and support workers across every industry who deserve the right to come home from work every single day safely to their family and loved ones,” she told reporters.

Federal Minister for Resources Madeleine King also said it was too soon to have a solid idea of what caused the incident.

Victoria Police Acting Inspector Lisa Macdougal speaks to media during a press conference in Ballarat, Victoria.
Victoria Police Acting Inspector Lisa Macdougal speaks to media during a press conference in Ballarat, Victoria. Credit: CON CHRONIS/AAPIMAGE

Mining operations have ceased as police work with the workplace regulator to investigate the incident and prepare a report for the coroner, Acting Inspector Lisa MacDougall said.

The mine’s owner Victory Minerals said its emergency response team was working closely with Victoria Police and it was focused on supporting impacted workers.

“Our absolute priority is supporting the wellbeing of our team members and their families and loved ones as we all come to terms with this tragic news,” it said in a statement.

The company took operational control of the Ballarat gold mine in December 2023.

Two miners were pinned by fallen rocks at the mine on Woolshed Gully Drive at Mount Clear.
Two miners were pinned by fallen rocks at the mine on Woolshed Gully Drive at Mount Clear. Credit: 7NEWS

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Tania Constable said safety was the most important issue for the industry.

“This tragic event is a reminder of the need to always prioritise safety above all else,” she said.

The mine’s website states it has an extensive network of tunnels and operates deep beneath buildings, streets and homes.

Ballarat Mayor Des Hudson said the miner’s death was devastating news.

“We are a very resilient community,” he said.

“There will be great community concern and support by the local community to those that are involved.”

In 2007, 27 miners were trapped underground at the mine for several hours before being winched to safety.

The suburb of Mount Clear was also the focus of the search for mother-of-three Samantha Murphy, who police allege was murdered by 22-year-old Patrick Orren Stephenson.

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