Four Queensland coal mines could be closed after allegedly failing to meet dust monitoring obligations designed to protect workers’ health.
Glenclore’s Oaky North and Oaky No. 1 and Anglo’s Moranbah North and Grosvenor have allegedly failed to meet their dust monitoring obligations during the second quarter of this year.
According to a report in the Brisbane Times, it comes after the “re-emergence” of black lung in Queensland, which prompted a wide ranging inquiry into dust diseases, and 23 confirmed cases.
Queensland Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said he was advised the levels of non-compliance varied.
“However, in my view any failure to meet their safety and health obligation is not acceptable,” he said.
“Decisions about actions to deal with non-compliance are made by a mines inspector.”
Dr Lynham said mines inspectors had statutory independence and he had no authority to direct them.
“I have voiced my concerns to the Mines Inspectorate and have been assured that decisive action is underway,” he told Parliament on Thursday night.
“Any failure to meet dust monitoring obligations is, in my opinion, a demonstration that there is a serious issue with the safety and health management systems at these mines.
“Based on our knowledge of the diseases caused by coal dust, it is my view that any failure to comply reflects a gross disregard of an operator’s obligations to protect their workforce.”
Inspectors are issuing directives to the four mines.
Under Queensland legislation, the inspectors can require a full and independent audit of the mine’s safety and health management system instructions, or prosecute, or close the mine.
The Coal Workers’ Pneumoconiosis Select Committee expressed its disappointment at the news, describing the latest incidences as further evidence government and industry still did not appreciate the importance of coal dust issues and their impacts in mines across Queensland.
In a statement, committee chair Jo-Ann Miller and deputy chair Lawrence Springborg called for urgent action.
They pointed to the committee’s bipartisan report, tabled on May 29, which outlined 68 recommendations to address the re-identification of CWP.
“This government has still not responded to the report, yet the Not Now, Not Ever domestic violence report was accepted immediately and in full, the tow truck inquiry report was released one day and dealt with the next day and various child safety reports have all been dealt with in an appropriately prompt fashion,” the statement reads.
“We call on the government to act immediately and adopt the black lung report in the interests of the health and safety of Queensland coal workers, their families and the entire Queensland industry.
“There is no excuse for further procrastination or delay in adopting this report and its critical recommendations.”