Unstable mine delays investigation
Friends of Craig Butler, believed dead after he was buried alive at a Territory mine site on Saturday, have shared memories of the man described at a "great bloke".
Mr Butler was engulfed under soil and rock at the Bootu Creek Mine, about 110km north of Tennant Creek, following the horrific industrial incident.
Brendon Mcmanus wrote on social media: "My condolences to a true gentlemen a great bloke and a mate. Can't express my sorrow enough to the family for your loss. RIP."
"Such a beautiful genuine man. My heartfelt condolences to Linda and all his family. Xxx. I only pray he may still be with us," Louise Horton wrote.
Efforts to recover Mr Butler's body have hit road blocks due to instability. Initial inspections showed water seeping from the pit wall.
Although his death hasn't been confirmed by authorities mine owner OM Holdings issued a statement saying it was "deeply saddened" by what it called a "fatal accident".
It said their employee was killed due to the failure in Tourag pit.
"All operations at the mine were halted, subsequently certain operations have restarted," the statement read.
"All employees are offered access to counselling services."
But workers at the site said they were disgusted at being asked to head back to work after the death of their mate.
"They told the media that all operations had been ceased. All operations only ceased today (Monday)," one worker, who did not want to be named, told the NT News. "They canned it for the day when the incident happened."
Another said they were made to go back to work on Sunday.
"If that's not disrespect and f*cking disgusting, I don't know what is," the worker said.
In its statement issued Monday morning, OM Holdings said: "all operations at the mine were halted, subsequently certain operations have restarted".
On Sunday afternoon - 26 hours after the collapse - Primary Industry and Resources Minister Paul Kirby intervened, ordering the mine stop "in-pit" operations immediately.
"The incident at Bootu Creek Mine is an absolute tragedy and my thoughts go to all the workers at the site and the families involved," he said.
"Territorians have the right to go to work and return safely to their families."
Mr Kirby cancelled a work trip to Indonesia to deal with the incident.
NT Police are leading a joint agency taskforce alongside NT Worksafe and the Department of Primary Industry and Resources.
A police spokesman said it was difficult to begin retrieving the man due to safety concerns.
Chief Minister Michael Gunner said the death was an "awful tragedy".
"No one wants to see someone die in a workplace in Australia," he said.
"This is going to be thoroughly and properly investigated."