QUEENSLAND mining executives face up to 20 years in jail if it is found workers died because of their criminal negligence.
- Under the proposed laws, senior officers of a mine or quarry company can be tried for industrial manslaughter if criminal negligence is proven for a worker’s death
- Maximum penalties range up to $13 million and 20 years’ jail
- The bill also strengthens measures to ensure taxpayers are not left with the costs of rehabilitating abandoned mines
- Find out whether your Progressive Rehabilitation Plan (PRC) is compliant in QLD in this free guide
The new laws follow the death of a Thiess contractor in January; the eighth death in Queensland’s mining industry in the past two years. Five of these eight deaths occurred in 2019.
That legislation brings resources workplaces into line with all other Queensland workplaces.
Lynham said: “It is totally unacceptable that workers continue to die in our resources workplaces. Queensland already has the toughest mine safety and health laws in the world. The most important product to come off a mine site or a quarry at the end of the shift is not minerals or coal; it’s a worker, heading home to family and friends.”
Lynham said that the new laws are “part of the most comprehensive suite of mine health and safety reforms in two decades” and will provide over 50,000 mine and quarry workers with the same protections as other Queensland workers.
Offenders breaching mining safety laws currently face a maximum sentence of three years’ jail term for multiple deaths. The reforms will include an improved safety net for affected workers, increased maximum penalties for offences, state-wide safety reset sessions for workers, and a commitment to tighter controls on, and monitoring of the health effects of, mine dust levels. Exposure to mine dust can lead to coal workers’ pneumoconiosis (CWP), also known as black lung disease or black lung.
There has also been more than 49,000 chest x-rays to International Labour Organisation standards, including more than 14,000 by Queensland-based Lungscreen Australia.
Mine dust lung disease expert Dr Bob Cohen, from University of Illinois, Chicago, said this increased health surveillance of coal miners made Queensland “the envy of the world”.
“Coal miners and their families should feel comforted that miners’ health will be protected through a high-quality medical surveillance system that ensures disease is detected early and the risk of disease progressing to a severe and debilitation stage is thereby significantly refused. Other jurisdictions including the United States should strongly consider adopting these changes Queensland has led.”
Lynham told parliament there had been extensive consultation with the Queensland Resources Council, mining companies and unions.
Queensland Resources Council CEO Ian Macfarlane said the organisation would need to examine the bill in further detail.
The organisation will make a formal submission to the parliamentary committee that will examine the bill.
“QRC accepts the introduction of industrial manslaughter as an offence in the resources sector,” Macfarlane said.
“However, QRC is concerned the current proposed legislation unintentionally weakens the mine safety reforms introduced two decades ago following the Moura 2 Mine tragedy that claimed 11 lives on August 7 1994.
“QRC believes it is critical the reforms developed in the wake of that tragedy remain in force and are built upon.
“QRC will continue to work with the government and unions to achieve that end.”
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union welcomed the bill’s introduction.
CFMEU Queensland president Stephen Smyth said it would bring mining into line with other industries where individual executives and managers faced jail time.
“The industry has fought tooth and nail against being held accountable for worker deaths,” he said.
“I commend the Queensland government for standing up to pressure from the mining companies and bringing this bill to parliament.
“Over the past year, we have all been shocked and saddened by the deaths that have occurred in our industry.
“Where worker deaths are caused by negligence, there should be consequences. Mine safety is a multi-dimensional issue, but accountability for individuals in positions of authority is absolutely critical.
“The union has advocated strongly for industrial manslaughter laws in mining and we’ll continue to fight to improve safety in our industry.”
The CFMEU also supports changes that require statutory positions in mines to be filled by workers employed by mining companies, rather than employed as contractors.
Smyth said the critical roles of deputy and open cut examiner must be directly employed and focus on safety, rather than production.
Mine rehabilitation reforms
The bill introduced yesterday also strengthens measures to ensure taxpayers are not left with the costs of rehabilitating abandoned mines and better protections for vulnerable electricity customers.
The Palaszczuk government’s financial assurance and mine rehabilitation reforms specify that mines going into care and maintenance will have enhanced security and that there will be broader powers for remediating abandoned mines and will, where possible, commercialise said sites.
Originally published by Australia’s Mining Monthly.
What is mine rehabilitation?
According to the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources, mine rehab (rehabilitation) is “the process used to repair the impacts of mining on the environment. Mine rehabilitation can also be referred to as coal mine rehabilitation, land rehabilitation, mine site rehabilitation or mine site restoration. The long-term objectives of rehabilitation can vary from simply converting an area to a safe and stable condition, to restoring the pre-mining conditions as closely as possible to support the future sustainability of the site”.
What are the different types of mine rehabilitation practices?
There are several types of mine rehabilitation practices including: - Hydrogeology - Flooding - Soil and capping material assessment - Water characterisation - Landform and cover design - Water management - Revegetation - Tailings storage facilities
Is my Progressive Rehabilitation and Closure Plan (PRCP) compliant?
Organisations carrying out mining activities in Queensland (QLD) are legally obligated to rehabilitate the land. A progressive rehabilitation and closure plan (PRC plan) is a critical element of the QLD Government’s Mined Land Rehabilitation Policy. When submitting a site-specific application for an Environmental Authority (EA) for a new mining activity relating to a mining lease, applicants are required to develop and submit a proposed PRC plan as part of their application. Download your free guide below to find out: https://www.decipher.com.au/MineRehabilitationGuideQLD
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