Quake hits western Australian mining town

PERTH, Australia (AP) — A powerful earthquake struck Australia's major gold-mining region in the west Tuesday, collapsing roofs of several buildings and prompting the evacuation of mines, schools and hospitals.

Two people were treated for minor injuries, including a teenage girl who was hit by falling rubble, news reports and police said.

The magnitude 5 quake hit at 8:17 a.m. local time (0017 GMT, 11:17 p.m. Monday EDT) about six miles (10 kilometers) southwest of the town of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, according to Geoscience Australia.

The region is used to much lower-level rumbling from massive explosions at the nearby Kalgoorlie Gold Mine, Australia's largest open-pit mine where blasting is regularly used to deepen the more than 2-mile long, 1-mile wide (3.5 kilometer-long, 1.5-kilometer wide) hole.

More than 50 mines operate in Kalgoorlie, 370 miles (595 kilometers) east of the Western Australia state capital of Perth. The Super Pit, as it is known, was among several mines closed as a precaution after Tuesday's quake. It produces up to 850,000 ounces of gold every year.

All mines were evacuated and all miners accounted for, said Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union.

"We know now that at the open cut mine there has been some significant rockfalls, and we expect similar problems in the underground mines," Howes said. "This incident is a huge reminder of the inherent dangers in our industry."

The area was founded on gold fields in 1893.

In Kalgoorlie-Boulder, roofs fell in hospitals and other buildings, and balconies fell off some hotels.

Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett said the quake had caused some structural damage to schools, which sent students home until safety checks could be carried out.

Geoscience Australia seismologist David Jepsen said the quake was fairly shallow and would have been felt several hundred kilometers (miles) away.

It was the strongest earthquake to hit the region in 50 years, Geoscience Australia said.