MINE TRAGEDIES: Donald Rabbitt (right top) Brad Duxbury (right middle) and Jack Gerdes (right bottom).
MINE TRAGEDIES: Donald Rabbitt (right top) Brad Duxbury (right middle) and Jack Gerdes (right bottom).

Timeline of tragedy in Bowen Basin mines

THE crackle of voices over a police scanner was the first inkling that something might have gone wrong in the small mining community of Middlemount.

Journalists at were intrigued by the location of the job emergency crews were being tasked to - Middlemount Coal Mine.

They diligently followed up what they had heard over the scanner.

READ MORE: Year on from Middlemount tragedy: Report sheds new light

"Emergency services are currently trying to retrieve a miner who is trapped inside a digger after a mine wall collapse at Middlemount Coal Mine" was the first line of the online article about the incident.

It was concerning news.


A nightmare scenario for all mining families.

But not even the journalists in the newsroom that day could have anticipated the tragedy that would unfold in the following hours, weeks and months.

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At 6.15pm, rescue crews were still unable to reach the trapped operator.

Another 12 agonising hours would pass before the community's worst fears were confirmed - a miner was dead.

His name was David Routledge.

David Routledge with his grandchildren.
David Routledge with his grandchildren.

He was a much-loved Mackay father and grandfather.

A soulmate to his wife, Debra.

His devastated son Anthony would later describe him as a "champion guy" who loved the outdoors and would do anything to provide for his family.

"The news dropped me straight to my knees," Anthony said in the days following the incident.

"They never said Dad had passed away yet, because they still hadn't got to him to know his condition.

"But I knew deep down, straight away. They don't make a phone call with that amount of worry in their voice for nothing."

Many would argue it was this tragedy at Middlemount that would change the industry and broader community's perception of mine safety in Queensland.


We had already lost miners Allan Houston and Bradley Hardwick just months prior.

In the six months following David's death, another three miners would lose their lives - Jack Gerdes, Brad Duxbury and Donald Rabbitt.

The Moranbah Miners Memorial. Picture: Daryl Wright
The Moranbah Miners Memorial. Picture: Daryl Wright

A review, ordered by the State Government following the spate of mine deaths, found an unsafe working environment in the Queensland mining industry would likely cost another 12 lives over the next five years.

Then on May 6 this year, the unthinkable occurred.

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Five miners were seriously injured in an underground explosion at Anglo American's Grosvenor Mine in Moranbah.

The next day, Mines Minister Anthony Lynham announced a board of inquiry would review the Grosvenor blast tragedy and the 40 other high potential incidents.

Then last month, tough new mine safety laws passed in Queensland parliament to establish industrial manslaughter as an offence in mines and quarries.

Only time will tell whether these measures will be enough to help stop the senseless loss of life that has plagued the mining industry over the past two years.