Australian miners left “fuming” as mining giant restarts coal mine following 2020 explosion
23 April 2021
Workers at mining giant Anglo American’s Grosvenor coal mine in Queensland, Australia have been left “fuming” as a result of the company’s decision to restart operations following an explosion in May 2020 which seriously injured five people. According to Reuters news agency, a union official has said that Anglo American has not kept workers informed about the plans to restart the mine, a claim disputed by the company.
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Operations at the Grosvenor coal mine are undergoing a staged restart after Anglo American secured regulatory approval on April 22. The mine has been closed since an explosion on May 6 seriously injured five workers. Four of the workers were in critical conditions following the blast and had to be airlifted to hospital after suffering significant burns to their upper bodies and damage to their respiratory systems. The explosion was the second safety incident at Grosvenor in the span of 15 months.
Reuters quotes a statement from Stephen Smyth, the Queensland President of the CFMEU Mining and Energy union, saying that miners at the Grosvenor mine have repeatedly called for their union safety inspectors to be kept informed about any plans to restart operations. However, Smyth says that representatives have not been given any notice or information about the staged restart, which has “left workers fuming”.
Reuters says that Anglo American called Smyth’s comment “unfounded” and said union representatives were part of the team planning the mine’s restart. A statement from Anglo American said they have kept workers closely informed about re-entry planning over recent months, however the plans could not have proceeded until the regulator had lifted the directive that was keeping the mine closed.
Smyth has also raised issue with the one-on-one interview process being conducted by Anglo American with its workers in which they are questioned about their mental health and ability to work safely underground. Smyth said it was unfair for the company to put workers on the spot and make them fear that they will be targeted or lose their job. He added that everyone wants the Grosvenor mine to re-open, but Anglo American should look to build trust with its work force rather than breaching it.
The findings of an inquiry into the May 2020 explosion were meant to have been released in November, however they are now expected at the end of May. Mine safety inspectors will visit the Grosvenor mine in the coming days to conduct an inspection after Anglo American sealed off the area of the explosion.
The findings of an inquiry into the incident are set to be handed to the state government at the end of May. Anglo American will not be able to fully restart operations until it is able to demonstrate to the state’s mine safety watchdog that suitable controls are in place to prevent similar incidents from happening again.