A link between mining deaths in Australia and plunging commodity prices?
14 December 2014
The number of work-related deaths in Australian mines rose to 17 in 2013-14. In the previous financial year, no mining deaths were recorded and the total had been falling for eight years since the previous peak in 2005-06, when there were 14 mining deaths. The worst affected states, News South Wales and Western Australia, have begun investigations into this worrying trend.
NSW Resources and Energy Minister Anthony Roberts told The Australian he had written to the chairman of the Mine Safety Advisory Council to seek “a deeper, holistic examination of current circumstances’’.
Also, a recent report on coal mine safety in Queensland identifies a number of worsening trends, including a big rise in damage to explosion protected equipment, and widespread lack of competence in coal dust suppression.
Unions claim that coal mining companies, in particular, faced with the lowest prices in seven years, are working miners and machinery to the limit to increase production and maintain revenue.
Industry association the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) denies this, but said it could provide no explanation for the spike in fatalities. If the MCA is serious in its claim that staff safety is its primary concern, its members need to check carefully that safety margins in their mines are not being compromised in this time of shrinking markets and retrenchment.