PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Queensland Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham on Tuesday introduced legislation into Parliament that could see mining executive face up to 20 years in jail if Queensland mine and quarry workers die as a result of criminal negligence.
“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. These laws will give our 50 000 mine and quarry workers the same protections as other Queensland workers,” Lynham said on Tuesday.
“These are part of the most comprehensive suite of mine health and safety reforms in two decades.”
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, with maximum penalties ranging up to A$13-million and 20 years’ jail.
Lynham said the new laws were just part of a suite of sweeping mine safety and health reforms under the state government.
“The most important product to come off a mine site or a quarry at the end of shift is not minerals, or coal; it’s a worker, heading home to family and friends,” he said.
Those reforms include better detection and prevention of black lung, and an improved safety net for affected workers, increased maximum penalties for offences to A$4-million and powers for the regulator to issue fines without going to court, and statewide safety reset sessions for mine and quarry workers to refocus on health and safety.
Furthermore, A$35-million has been set aside to deliver reforms to improve the safety and health of mineworkers, while the government has made a commitment to tighter controls on mine dust levels, and will introduce legislation to establish an independent resources health and safety authority, while also employing extra mines inspectors.
The Bill introduced today also strengthens measures to ensure taxpayers are not left with the costs of rehabilitating abandoned mines and better protections for vulnerable electricity customers.
The Bill proposes reforms in line with the state government’s financial assurance and mine rehabilitation reforms, which includes more powers for government to scrutinise the financial capabilities of a resource authority holder when a mine changes hands; enhanced scrutiny of mines that are put under care and maintenance, in particular by requiring mineral mining lease holders to provide development plans; and broader powers for remediating abandoned mines, and where possible, commercialising these sites; as well as clear criteria to assess the suitability of companies and people to hold resource tenures, and exclude unsuitable applicants.
The Queensland Resources Council (QRC) on Tuesday said that it accepted the introduction of industrial manslaughter as an offence in the resources sector, but raised concerns that 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,” said CEO Ian Macfarlane.
“A safe workplace for those 372 000 men and women and their safe return home to family and loved ones is our priority. The loss of six lives in the mining industry over the last 18 months has been devastating for families, colleagues, companies, communities and our industry,” he added.