Inspections needed at Maules Creek over con man’s work

WHITEHAVEN Coal has confirmed it carried out inspections on all work completed on its Maules Creek project by a con artist who for decades successfully passed himself off as a qualified engineer.

Gerald Shirtcliff, of Brisbane, was employed by engineering firm Sedgman Limited to work on Whitehaven Coal’s $18.5 million coal-handling preparation plant as part of its $767 million open-cut mine.

However, subsequently it emerged that Shirtcliff, who worked under the name William Fisher, had been using an engineering degree from an English university he had stolen from a colleague in the late 1960s.

Shirtcliff, 66, recently pleaded guilty in court to 146 charges, including conducting professional engineering services while not an engineer and making false and misleading statements, and was fined $500,000.

Magistrate Paul Kluck said: “Any deficiency in the engineering calculations ... could have very serious consequences in terms of injury to persons, damage to property and ... failure of the projects concerned.”

Shirtcliff worked as a contractor for industry-leading companies Sedgman Limited and WorleyParsons on mines in both NSW and Queensland, including at Maules Creek and Boggabri.

A Whitehaven spokesman told The Leader that Shirtcliff had been engaged by Sedgman to work on the civil design of its coal-handling and preparation plant (CHPP) before his termination in September 2012.

“While clearly the revelations about (Shirtcliff) came as a surprise to Whitehaven, the company is confident the validation work has confirmed the overall integrity and safety of the CHPP design,” he said.

“He was terminated as an independent contractor by Sedgman on September 20, 2012.”

Shirtcliff’s credentials came under scrutiny when he appeared before a New Zealand royal commission into the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes in his capacity of construction supervisor of the CTV building, which collapsed, killing 115 people.

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