BHP has refused to confirm reports that it is facing a claim for unfair dismissal after sacking the train driver at the centre of November’s runaway train derailment near Port Hedland.

However, the mining giant has confirmed the driver “is no longer employed by the company.”

“Out of respect for the individual and their privacy we are unable to provide further information,” a BHP spokeswoman said.

However, The West Australian understands the South Australian-based driver was sacked on December 18 following an inquiry into his actions on the day and has engaged lawyers to sue BHP for unfair dismissal.

The West Australian revealed on November 5 that a fully-laden 268-car iron ore train careered driverless for 50 minutes at an average speed of 110km/h before it was deliberately derailed about 120km south of Port Hedland in the early hours of the same morning.

Speculation swirled for weeks about how the incident could have occurred before BHP released a statement attributing the incident to a combination of mechanical failure and human error.

BHP’s Western Australian Iron Ore Asset President Edgar Basto said initial findings showed the train had stopped automatically because a braking system control cable became disconnected.

The driver was advised by BHP’s remote operations centre to get out and manually apply brakes, assuming he had already applied an emergency air brake inside the cabin.

“Our initial findings show that the emergency air brake for the entire train was not engaged as required by the relevant operating procedure,” Mr Basto said.

“In addition, the electric braking system that initially stopped the train automatically released after an hour while the driver was still outside.”

BHP confirmed the automatic release is a standard design feature of the electric braking system.

The train began moving and the back-up braking system could not be deployed because of the initial brake control cable disconnection.

Once in motion, the roughly 50,000-tonne weight of the train and its ore caused it to build momentum and speed on its mostly downhill journey towards Port Hedland.

Mr Basto said the train was derailed intentionally because it could not be stopped with the braking system.

“This decision was made with safety as the highest priority,” he said.



Image: BHP 268-car train derailment wreck. 6 November 2018, The West Australian