Possible mine shutdowns threaten contractor jobs

Western Australian Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore issued the warning this week following talks last week with BHP executives to discuss the spate of deaths – which have included contractors – at the miner’s operations over the past year. “There have been five fatalities this financial year at sites operated by BHP Billiton, and the state government will not stand by and let this state of affairs to continue,” he said. Previously, mines inspectors generally issued improvement notices for breaches of worksite conditions – orders that allowed work to continue while problems were addressed.However, Moore said that improvement notices would now no longer be issued to BHP. “Mines inspectors will now issue prohibition notices to BHP under the Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 – basically a stop work notice – for any breach of work practices or work place conditions that may constitute a hazard to workers,” he said. “If there is any breach, an immediate prohibition notice will prevent work from continuing at that particular worksite until the problem is resolved,” he said.Moore said the new policy was a result of State Mining Engineer Martin Knee taking the unprecedented step of using his discretionary powers under the Act. The stop work notices will remain in place until the Section 45 review into safety management systems at BHP’s iron ore mines in the Pilbara region has been released. The Section 45 review is due by April 30. “There has been a lot of work put into this document and my understanding is that it will be a comprehensive report into the existing policies, processes and systems that relate to BHP’s operations,” the minister said. “There will no doubt be many areas identified where BHP can lift its game to improve worker safety.”Moore also said that BHP advised him during talks last week that it would work closely with his department to ensure worker safety was a priority. “BHP has advised me that it will suspend all non-essential night shift work across its Pilbara operations, enhance its fatigue management plan, hold contractor safety workshops, move its rail operations from under the jurisdiction of the Mines Safety and Inspection Act to the Rail Safety Act, improve its traffic management standards and strengthen behavioural safety programs,” he said. Meantime, Moore told delegates at the 2009 Paydirt Gold Conference in Perth that he and Nationals leader Brendan Grylls would unveil the previously announced $80 million exploration incentive package in Kalgoorlie on Friday. “The money [from the incentive package] will start to flow immediately … but the majority of money will be spent in the following four years and it is roughly around $20 million per annum,” he said.“The package will contain a range of different vehicles to achieve the outcome that we want, which is to get a better understanding of the state’s geological benefits and to understand better those parts of the state where significant exploration has not taken place in the past.” The scheme, which falls under the Royalty for Regions initiative, will provide broad access to updated geoscientific data and offer greenfields drilling subsidies with the aim of promoting and accelerating exploration activity in WA.

Send this to a friend