2000 more Queensland jobs with new mine approval: Moranbah

A NEW Central Queensland mine project will be allowed to employ fly-in, fly-out workers as well as locals under strict workforce requirements.

The Coordinator-General has approved BHP Mitsubishi Alliance’s Red Hill Mining project north of Moranbah.

Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the BMA proposal would create 2000 construction jobs and 1500 operational jobs at peak production.

The Coordinator-General’s requirements forbid a 100% FIFO workforce, stipulate people from all regions can apply for jobs and calls for detailed and regular reporting on workforce composition and operations, along with an audit of existing housing capacity.

BMA intended to use a 100% FIFO workforce for Red Hill, following a track laid by its Daunia and Caval Ridge mines.

An end to 100% FIFO workforces was signalled by the former LNP Government following an intense campaign by Australian Regional Media, the publisher of this website.

The project involves construction of a new underground coal mine and expansion of the existing Broadmeadow and Goonyella-Riverside coal mines.

Dr Lynham said it would increase coal output from about 18 million to up to 32.5 million tonnes a year at the mining complex centred on Goonyella-Riverside.

The approval comes as a Queensland parliamentary inquiry investigates FIFO and drive-in, drive-out practices in regional Queensland.

“This development will provide a valuable job boost in Central Queensland regional communities and businesses, as well as the rest of the state,” Dr Lynham said.

“But it’s also critical that development takes into account the economic and social impact of 100% FIFO on resource communities.

“The Coordinator-General’s conditions represent a whole new approach to dealing with this workforce issue.”

He said the Coordinator-General had found that BMA’s EIS addressed the predicted outcomes, and he has set conditions to avoid, mitigate or offset these impacts, including groundwater, ecology, surface water, land impacts, traffic and transport, noise and air quality.

“The proposal now enters the next stage, which involves environmental authorities, public consultation, and potentially Land Court hearings,” Dr Lynham said.

Towns treated like mushrooms

THE Central Highlands have been left in the dark by mining companies.

After BMA announced that 700 positions would be cut from its seven Bowen Basin mines, Moranbah families and businesses are clambering to recover and adjust to the devastating news.

Moranbah Traders Association president Trehan Stenton said mining companies were happy to be well served by the region in the boom times but the lack of transparency made recovering for job cuts difficult.

“BMA are not giving any information about the nature of the workforce that will be cut,” Mr Stenton said.

“Mining companies need to engage with the community to at least work on a plan for the future.”

Mr Stenton said the state and federal governments needed to unlock funding to help local businesses transition from a reliance on the mining sector to industries such as service and agriculture. “We need short-term help for the wider community,” he said.

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker said the job cuts would devastate the region

“The majority of these job losses are coming from BMA’s residential mines in our region, which directly impacts our communities,” she said.

“With six BMA mines is Isaac, many of these job cuts will affect Isaac residents.”

Ms Baker said the cuts would significantly affect every aspect of the communities.

Moranbah, Clermont and Dysart are expected to the most economic damage, with the majority of mine workers under threat living in those towns.

Union representatives used the announcement to launch an attack on BHP Billiton.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union general secretary Andrew Vickers said the union was also seeking information about the jobs targeted in the cuts.

“BHP is demonstrating a horrifying disregard for jobs and for the future of central Queensland,” Mr Vickers said.

“BHP has profited enormously from central Queensland resources over many years, but they are showing their true colours as a ruthless multinational corporation.”

On Tuesday, BMA Asset President Lucas Dow said the “stubbornly” high Australian dollar and low coal price were drivers behind the review.

BHP-Mitsubishi mine closure threatens town’s future

Coal communities in central Queensland are reeling after the big job cuts announced by BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi yesterday.

It is the latest blow to the once booming industry and businesses throughout the region are facing an uncertain future.

At shift change on the coal fields some miners are wondering if it will be their last.

Many of these miners live in Moranbah, which is reeling in the wake of BMA’s (BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance) decision to cut 700 jobs.

At the workers’ club, the news is still sinking in for coal miner Brenton Fry and his wife, Anja Har.

“Obviously it’s bad news for the community, the whole Bowen Basin. It’ll strike a lot of people in the heart,” Mr Fry said.

The mining giant is blaming global cost pressures, but the decision will have a huge local effect and small businesses are bracing.

“We are going to lose a lot of people out of Moranbah, which is going to be quite sad,” said business owner Jo-Anne Foley.

This family-run business says the current downturn is the worst yet.

“It’s a bit like a cancer, I suppose, it’s just chopping you off at the legs slowly and we’ve just got to keep going. Suck it up,” added Shane Foley.

The widespread job cuts have also reignited the debate about fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforces. It has been a contentious issue during the boom times and now even more so during the downturn.

The Mayor of Isaac Regional Council Anne Baker says a sense of community will be lost if too many FIFOs stay on.

“There needs to be a review of this work practice. I’m very concerned about our education, our health, our small business,” she said.

Brenton Fry is hoping he can continue to call Moranbah home.

“This is probably the best job I’ve ever come across. So, I hope I get to keep it.”



Broadmeadow Mine looking forward to a $1 billion expansion

INNOVATIVE technology, more employment and higher production is what BMA’s Broadmeadow Mine has to look forward to thanks to a $1 billion expansion.

The mine will have innovative technology to extract thick seams of coal will be used in Queensland for the first time.

Natural Resources and Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the technology was the first of its type to be used in a Queensland mine and allowed for almost complete recovery of coal from thick seams.

“It is also renowned for its high productivity and for reducing operating costs, which are significant advantages for the coal mining industry,” he said.

“The extension of three longwall panels at the mine means production will be lifted from 400,000 tonnes per annum to a new total capacity of 4.8 million tonnes per annum.

Mr Cripps said the mine extension generated 650 jobs during construction and could also allow for an increase in production capacity.

“This expansion won’t only support the growing resources sector, but has also been a boost to the construction industry, another economic pillar of the Queensland economy,” he said.

“In the past, the construction industry hasn’t been a focus, however these sorts of construction projects provide jobs and improved infrastructure for Queensland.”

Broadmeadow is an underground mine on the Goonyella lease near Moranbah that produces hard coking coal for export to the Middle East, Asia, South America, South Africa, Europe, Japan and India.

QLD mining ghost towns predicted as workers on the move

A mining communities advocate has lashed out at the Queensland government, claiming a lack of support will see regional mining centres turn into “ghost towns” as workers leave to secure FIFO jobs.

Former state politician and Central Queensland Coal Communities advocate Jim Pearce claims mine workers are leaving regional towns at an alarming rate so they can be considered for work at the 100 per cent FIFO workforce at BMA’s Caval Ridge mine, Daily Mercury reported.

Pearce said the state and federal governments should “hang their heads in shame” for allowing BMA to opt for a wholly FIFO workforce at the mine and says people are leaving their homes and moving to different postcodes in the hope of securing work.

“This is the history of the industry in reverse,” he said.

“People used to move from the coast to the coal towns to have a job and a nice home and a great town to live in and now those vibrant populations will become ghost towns. Who would want to live in a community where they have a high risk of not being able to retain a job just because of the policies of the industry?”

BHP’s decision to use a 100 per cent FIFO workforce instead of hiring from inside the local Central Queensland community, enraged locals, the unions as well as the wider mining community at large early last year.

It was hoped that BHP would source the 1000 employees needed for the project from the surrounding areas of Moranbah, Dysart, Mackay and Rockhampton but instead workers will be flown in from Brisbane and Cairns.

President of the Moranbah Traders Association, Peter Finlay, has previously said local residents should have the opportunity to apply for jobs in their own community.

“It’s seven kilometres from the post office and if you want to work there you can’t have an address in Moranbah – how stupid is that?” he said.

Pearce agrees, describing BMA’s decision as “bad policy”.

“There’s a huge burden on infrastructure, roads and communities along the east coast and all this is adding to it,” he said.

“I think it’s about time the people of Queensland and people with some authority started to ask the questions why mining companies prefer to have FIFO ahead of a sustainable existing community. The reason is because they get tax concessions for constructing mining camps.”

Pearce called on the state and federal governments to take a serious look at the situation.

“Taxpayers, mining companies and the government have put a lot of money into building these mining communities; that’s why we need to use them.”

An enquiry into the effects of FIFO workforces on regional towns was released last year, making 21 recommendations including better resourcing communities under pressure from large FIFO workforces, removing tax benefits for companies using transient workforces, a study into the impact on communities and the development of a housing strategy.


Affordable units to house non-mine workers

BHP-Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) says new affordable housing properties in central Queensland will be used to lure non-mining workers to the region.

The company, along with the Isaac Regional Council, has built 16 units in Moranbah and Dysart, south-west of Mackay, for low to medium income earners.

BMA asset president Steve Dumble says given the amount of projects his company has in central Queensland, it needs to ensure the local infrastructure can support the demand for large-scale mining.

“We’ve invested a significant amount of money – $100 million over the last two years in a range of community infrastructure,” he said.

“We’re investing on a number of fronts in spite of the tough economic circumstances at the moment because we have a lot at stake.

“We want to make these towns and central Queensland attractive places to work.”

He says the new units will be available for people not working in the mining industry.

“People who are needed to run day care, to perform emergency services functions, to work in the medical area,” he said.

“Those sort of critical functions that towns like Dysart and Moranbah can’t do without.”

Isaac Mayor Anne Baker says council will now look to secure more corporate funding for further housing developments.

“It’s a moving beast – affordable land and accommodation will always be high on our agenda,” she said.

“We’ll be actively seeking other industry partners to come on board with us and contribute.”

She says the council has made a significant contribution to the project.

“Council’s contribution with this housing project was the land, which is valued at $1.36 million and we also had a further investment of land and feed capital funding of $6.7 million,” she said.

“It’s been a large chunk of money and revenue from council that’s gone into the project but that has been coupled and assisted by BMA.”


Parties talk health

BMA, Anglo American, Isaac Regional Council and Moranbah and District Support Services are working to address community needs in Moranbah and Dysart through the commissioning of Health Workforce Queensland to develop a sustainable model for the provision of medical services in both regions.

Consultants are investigating different models of practice ownership and management, and developing a medical recruitment and attraction strategy to deliver a sustainable model of service provision.

BMA asset president Stephen Dumble said population growth driven by the mining industry was increasing the pressure on local medical services.

“We recognise, based on feedback from community groups, that medical and associated health services are under pressure in Moranbah and Dysart,” Mr Dumble said.

“Consequently, we are committed to playing a part in finding a solution, particularly given the importance of such services for our employees.”

IRC Mayor Anne Baker said having committed industry and community partnerships to address fundamental areas of community concern was important.

“This study will also feed into the larger Bowen Basin Medical Model, which addresses health shortages at a regional level across the Central Highlands, Banana and Isaac council areas,” Cr Baker said.


Miners return to work in central QLD

BMA coal miners will return to the job today after a week of strike action at six mines across the Bowen Basin in central Queensland.

More than 3500 workers have been protesting the company’s latest enterprise bargaining agreement, which more than 80 per cent of members have rejected.

The president of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division Queensland, Steve Smyth, says the union will continue negotiations with the mining giant early next week.

“Hopefully they’ll come to the table with a little less arrogance and a little bit more wanting to discuss and compromise and work through the outstanding matters and as I say, BHP what they’re selling, members aren’t buying.”

Mr Smyth says the strike action is not yet over.

“There may be some sporadic type action at various pits, there may be some pits that will continue to take day shift stoppages or day long stoppages and that’s up to the pit and their members to determine.”

“But as far as a collective stoppage of all six mines we’ll have that discussion and then we’ll work out our strategies from there.”

To show their support and solidarity to BMA workers, and their families, union officials from BHP mining operations across the country have met in Queensland for the annual BHP National Merger Group conference.

The meeting was due to be held in Perth but was relocated to Mackay giving delegates the chance to travel to Moranbah, visit the BMA mines and speak direct with workers on the picket lines.

The national vice-president of the CFMEU Mining and Energy Division, Wayne McAndrew, says it is an extremely important industrial dispute and the national office fully supports it.

“We will support them and we will do whatever we can to make sure that they have a successful outcome to this dispute. Already we’ve put all our resources at their disposal, we’re assisting them financially, we’re assisting them with media coverage, yes it’s an important dispute.”

Mr McAndrew says BMA’s threat to withdraw its five per cent pay increase to workers if the industrial action didn’t stop is childish and only makes the members angrier, stronger in their resolve and makes the bargaining more difficult.

“It’s a dispute that we’ve consistently said that’s not about money or bonus or wages.”

“It’s about having proper and appropriate conditions of employment that safeguard members working and also safeguards safety roles we currently have here.”

President of the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, Stephen Dumble, says the latest enterprise agreement (EA) is not about company management wanting to control safety jobs.

Mr Dumble says the current EA does not allow BMA to provide careers and adequate pay rates to attract employees, rather than contractors, into critical safety roles.

“We want the best possible people working with us as employees in these very important safety roles.”

“It is simply about having an ability to compete with conditions on offer for contractors.”

The company says it will maintain its offer of a five per cent per year wage increase, for all three years of the proposed EA, but has already signalled to the unions that it’s unlikely to be able to retain its current offer indefinitely as a result of the current economic outlook.

BMA says that since it made its offer nearly 12 months ago, coal prices have reduced from more than $300 per tonne to $220 per tonne.


Mining strike could affect the price of coal

There’s a chance the price of coal could rise if the industrial dispute at six BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) coal mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin drags on.

Workers are back on strike today, continuing an 18-month dispute between the mining giant and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU).

More than 80 per cent of workers rejected BMA’s latest enterprise bargaining agreement offer.

Last minute negotiations between union officials and the company yesterday failed to prevent the latest round of week-long strikes.

But resources analyst Gavin Wendt says if there’s to be industrial action in the coal mining sector, now is probably the best time to have it.

“From BHP’s perspective, the last thing you’d want is industrial action when demand is strong and you’re selling every tonne of coal that you can possibly produce and prices are high,” he said.

“That’s not the situation at the moment. Of course, demand has been weakening off and prices are been somewhat soft compared to where they were in the past.”

BMA says that industrial action continues in spite of the fact that the last 12 months of rolling strikes has achieved nothing other than to cause harm to its employees, communities and the business.

The company says it will in good faith continue to make itself available for further bargaining meetings despite the continuing industrial action.

Mr Wendt says there may be fallout from ongoing industrial action at the BMA mines.

“If there’s a perception amongst consumers of coal in Asia that this really has no light at the end of the tunnel in terms of some sort of resolution, then it’s likely that traders and end consumers will start to get a little bit nervous,” he said.

“They’ve been fortunate in that there’s been plenty of supply around and demand has been easing.

“I think Asian buyers have pulled back from the market, but industrial action could well be the trigger for some of these end consumers starting to come back into the market to start to accumulate, in anticipation of prices potentially going higher if indeed this dispute does drag on.”

The Queensland president of the CFMEU, Steve Smyth, says he’s disappointed with BMA’s attitude at yesterday’s meeting, the first since workers rejected the company’s latest EBA offer.

“We would have thought they would be in a position to actually want to start negotiating, but they come to the table and it appears that the second huge overwhelming no vote has done nothing to actually get them to want to start negotiation in good faith.”

More than 3,000 workers are on strike at BMA’s Saraji, Peak Downs, Broadmeadow, Goonyella Riverside, Gregory Crinum and Blackwater mine sites.

BMA shut down its Norwich Park Mine, south of Dysart, earlier this month.


Lend Lease Group : Lend Lease secures A$210m earthworks contract in Queensland

Lend Lease today announced it has secured a circa A$210 million contract to carry out bulk earthworks for the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) Caval Ridge Mine project in central Queensland.

The contract will be delivered by Abigroup, part of Lend Lease’s Australian construction business. It covers the Southern Package of Bulk Earthworks for the infrastructure of the coal mine located in the Bowen Basin approximately 18km south east of Moranbah. The contract is predominantly earthworks, and includes a range of supporting infrastructure for the mine such as roads and drainage.

Lend Lease Group Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Mr Steve McCann, said the contract builds the Group’s growing presence in the central Queensland resource sector.

“We now have over A$400 million work in progress in this growth sector in Queensland,” said Mr McCann.

“This latest award illustrates the depth and capability of our infrastructure operations. The majority of specialist bulk earthworks plant will be supplied internally from Abigroup’s own construction plant fleet, one of the largest and most efficient in Australia.”

The Caval Ridge Mine development is part of a Queensland wide expansion of selected coal mines owned by BMA. The project is a 5.5Mtpa greenfield development of the mine in the north coupled with a 2.5 Mtpa expansion of the Peak Downs Mine to the south.