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Miner's $1.7m claim over 26kg bolt back injury

A MINER is suing his former employer for more than $1.7 million after suffering serious back injuries while working at a Blackwater coal mine.

In court documents filed in the Supreme Court at Rockhampton, Adon Paul Johnson alleges he was injured during the course of his work at Cook Colliery in Blackwater due to faulty equipment which saw him forced to manually lift 26kg bolts rather than use hydraulic machines.

Mr Johnson has filed the claim against Mining Group (Aust) Pty Ltd and CC Pty Limited.

Part of Mr Johnson's role included using an Airtrack to insert and fix high tensile steel bolts into pre-drilled holes in the rock strata of the underground mine roof to stabilise the rock.

These bolts were 8m long and weighed about 26kg.

The roof of the mine was about 3m high.

The Airtrack had hydraulic operated "gripper jaws" which would grasp the bolts and lift them into place.

A spinning attachment would turn the bolts in the pre-drilled holes.

However, the machine was tagged out of service due to a hydraulic leak preventing the jaws from closing with correct pressure to grasp and lift the bolts.

Without mechanical assistance, Mr Johnson was required to manually lift the bolts into place, use the out of service machine to spin the bolts and manoeuvre in a confined space.

As he lifted the 26kg bolt, Mr Johnson suffered a musculoligamentous injury to his lumbar spine, with disc protrusions impinging the nerve root.

Along with these physical injuries, Mr Johnson developed an adjustment disorder with depressed mood.

He is now unemployed and incapable of continuing work as an underground miner.

Although he can re-train for a new industry, Mr Johnson is now only be able to work part time and in sedentary roles.

Mr Johnson's lawyer Craig Oliver from Shine Lawyers said everyone had the right to work without risk of injury.

"The decision to not repair faulty hydraulic equipment required to repeatedly insert 26kg bolts into the roof of an underground mine, and have Adon manually do the heavy lifting instead, has proven more costly than the repair; at least a mining career, which reflects in damages.

"Every person has the right to go to their workplace and feel both safe and protected," he said.

"When a workplace fails in its duty of care, they should be held to account for the injuries caused and pay for the impact such injuries have on the lives of their workers. It's only right."

The claim for a total of $1,774,884.96 includes compensation of $950,000 for future economic loss, and $40,040.70 for future expenses including those incurred by medical appointments and travel to them.