Q&A: 10 years since the miracle Beaconsfield mine rescue

Brant Webb, one of the two gold miners who was trapped in the Beaconsfield Mine, Tasmania.
Brant Webb, one of the two gold miners who was trapped in the Beaconsfield Mine, Tasmania.

It's 10 years since a massive rockfall shook a tiny Tasmanian town to its core and triggered one of the most publicised mine rescues in history.

What happened?
Veteran miner Larry Knight was killed, crushed under the weight of hundreds of tonnes of rock and dirt when an earthquake rattled the Beaconsfield gold mine on April 25, 2006.

Who survived?
Two of his workmates, Brant Webb and Todd Russell, were trapped in a cramped cage nearly a kilometre underground.

How long did it take?
It was more than five days before the pair were miraculously discovered alive, and another nine until they finally emerged from the rubble - their near-death ordeal and dramatic rescue capturing headlines around the globe.

What else came of the incident?
Union boss and future Labor leader Bill Shorten shot to prominence as "the voice" of the search and rescue effort, while the sudden death of veteran journalist Richard Carleton tarred the fortnight with further tension and distress.

Was anyone held responsible?
Mine manager Matthew Gill faced an intense grilling over the collapse, with serious questions raised over whether it was safe to mine at the levels where the workers were found, despite a rockfall at the same depth a few months earlier. But a coronial inquest found neither the company nor any individuals were responsible for Knight's death.

What was the impact on the survivors?
Speaking ahead of the 10-year anniversary, Russell and Webb revealed their mental scars. Russell reached out for help only after his wife and kids threatened to walk out. "The person I became after being stuck underground was a monster," he told Nine's 60 Minutes. Webb had thought he was coping but a recent run-in with an employer sent him into a downward spiral of aggression, depression and panic attacks and he's still angry about Knight's untimely death. "It's beyond comprehension - you dig a hole, it's going to fill in, every fool knows that, but apparently the people that did the inquiry didn't know that," he said.

When will the rescue be marked?
Tasmanians are expected to commemorate the recovery effort on May 9.

- AAP

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