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Hundreds of mine worker lose their jobs due to lockdown

Fitzroy Australia Resources
Fitzroy Australia Resources

A worldwide economic shutdown has been blamed for causing hundreds of resources roles to disappear.

Middlemount Coal confirmed it has stood down tens of mine workers at its Middlemount Coal Mine, 285km west of Rockhampton.

The proponent described the international coal market as subdued due to government-imposed lockdowns to limit the Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19) from spreading.

Depressed market

“In the past week Middlemount Coal has made the difficult decision to slow production at its Bowen Basin mine as global economic shutdowns driven by COVID-19 depress[ing] world coal demand,” a spokesperson told QMEB. “The decision will see production from one of Middlemount’s six excavator fleets temporarily suspended, affecting 20 contract positions out of a workforce of approximately 400.”

Middlemount Coal revealed the suspension would not affect staff directly employed at the operation formerly owned by Vale Australia, and anyone affected will be offered counselling.

“All direct employees of Middlemount Coal have been retained and we have offered affected contractors access to our employee assistance program should they need assistance at this challenging time,” the spokesperson said. “We have fully and openly communicated our decision and the reasons for it to our team and thank them for their understanding and ongoing commitment to our operations.”

More redundancies

The announcement came just days after Fitzroy Australia Resources announced it would retrench 160 contract positions at its Carborough Downs Coal Mine, 150km southwest of Mackay.

The proponent also blamed the impact of COVID-19 for causing a major drop in the value of coking coal and steel production in the past two months. Bord and pillar mining operations will be suspended while long wall and development work will continue as usual. Only contractors are affected by the job cuts.

“Every effort has been made to preserve the majority of jobs and retain the core of the Fitzroy team,” Fitzroy CEO Grant Polwarth said in a public statement. “Our goal is to ensure long-term sustainability of the operation, protect the livelihoods of our employees and continue to make a meaningful contribution to the community in which we operate.”

Since the beginning of the year Peabody Energy shed about 465 workers from eight mining operations across the Trans Pacific region due to COVID-19.

465 jobs go

“Early actions stemming from this comprehensive program include the elimination of approximately 250 positions in April in the Powder River Basin, Indiana and Illinois to better scale staffing requirements to meet customer demand,” the proponent said in its latest quarterly report.

“This follows the reduction of approximately 215 operational positions, including contractors, in the first quarter across eight mines in the US and Australia to align with industry conditions.”

Peabody previously confirmed dozens of Australian mine workers were let go back in April.

Uncertain times

“Peabody made the extremely difficult decision to reduce approximately 40 positions from its Australian operations and is offering outplacement assistance and counselling to assist affected employees and their families during this difficult time,” a Peabody spokesperson said.

“These actions come in response to macro industry conditions, including the mild northern hemisphere winter, historically low natural gas prices, trade and policy uncertainties and, most recently, the widespread disruption of COVID-19.”

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QMEB understands further redundancies are being considered for the Coppabella Coal Mine, 138km southwest of Mackay. A Peabody spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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