Image for Mines must pay levy and mining whistleblowers need protection ...

*Pic: Isla MacGregor’s pic of Legacy Mine Waste at Copper Mines of Tasmania mine Queenstown

The latest news of Copper Mines of Tasmania admitting guilt over Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) breaches and the deaths of two miners at CMT’s mine in Queenstown requires some urgent answers from the Government as to whether or not they have put in place all of the recommendations by Professor Michael Quinlan in his Third Audit of the Mine Safety Unit and Office of the Chief Inspector of Mines, Worksafe Tasmania.

Where are Unions Tasmania or the Amalgamated Workers Union statements about the Government’s implementation of all of these recommendations?

MINING COMPANIES MUST PAY LEVY

It is significant that Professor Quinlan has suggested that the Office of Chief Inspector of Mines (OCIM) is not adequately funded and resourced and that mining companies should pay a levy to fund the Office of Chief Inspector of Mines or “allocate a set fraction of mining royalties to cover the costs of the OCIM.” 

This recommendation can be interpreted as suggesting a swing away from the failed self regulatory environment that we are aware has failed so abysmally in the mining sector, as elsewhere,  not only for OH&S but also for Environmental protection, compliance and enforcement by the EPA.

WHISTLEBLOWER PROTECTION FOR PRIVATE SECTOR EMPLOYEES

Point 15 refers to Workplace Tasmania collects data on notifiable incidents at all mines which needs to be ”(suitably anonymised).”

This highlights the need for protection of whistleblowers in the mining industry from reprisal for speaking out about breaches of OH&S.  As yet no Whistleblower protection laws have been introduced to protect whistleblowers in the private sector and this clearly needs to change if deaths in the mining industry or in the private sector generally are to be avoided. This equally applies to breaches of environmental regulations or license agreements.

While not intending to diminish the importance of all 17 Specific Recommendations made by Professor Quinlan the Government needs to release information to the Tasmanian community on how they have implemented recommendations from Prof Quinlan’s Report especially:
 

11. Either;
a.    Introduce a levy on the industry to fund Office of Chief Inspector of Mines, or
b.    allocate a set fraction of mining royalties to cover the costs of the
    OCIM

13. The skill set of existing inspectors needs to be upgraded (in the area auditing
in particular).

14. The two engineering qualified inspectors who are most likely to be called out
to a serious mine incident have access to home-garaged vehicles and this
should be extended to the new qualified appointments recommended in this
report.

15. Worksafe Tasmania collects data on notifiable incidents at all mines. I would
recommend this information (suitably anonymised) be forwarded to unions
and the Minerals Council on a six monthly basis.

16. A review of mine safety regulation in Tasmania should be undertaken as soon
as possible to ensure the regulatory framework accords with the best practice
55Third Audit of Tasmanian Mines Inspectorate, 2014
regimes found in Queensland, NSW and now New Zealand. The process
should be facilitated by a tripartite steering committee.

17. It is my strong recommendation that workplace visits should form an essential
element of any subsequent audit of the Mine Safety Unit and Office of Chief
Inspector of Mines, Worksafe Tasmania. I also recommend that a future audit
should include additional attention to quarrying, including several visits to
quarries, at least one of which should be a small operation that has not been
previously inspected.

Tasmanians need to have a clear picture of the commitment by the Tasmanian Government to ensure mining companies’ activities are in the best interests of the community, workers and the environment. We do not need yet another Quinlan style report following on from any future investigations into the efficacy of the OCIM after accidents at mine sites that replicate recommendations repeatedly made in the past.

Download Professor Michael Quinlan Report …

Quinlan_Report_2014.pdf

Extracts ...

THIRD AUDIT OF THE MINE SAFETY UNIT AND OFFICE OF CHIEF INSPECTOR OF MINES,
WORKSAFE TASMANIA

Professor Michael Quinlan PhD, FSIA
School of Management
University of New South Wales

April 2014

Page 54,55 & 56
Third Audit of Tasmanian Mines Inspectorate, 2014
SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Specific Recommendations

1.    An additional inspector needs to be appointed with primary responsibility for
quarrying.

2.    The two posts which are vacant at the moment should be filled by applicants
with mine engineering qualifications, one with specialist knowledge of coal
mining and one with specialist knowledge of metalliferous mining.

3.    I recommend that the process of finding replacement staff should commence
as soon as a departure is known in order to minimise (ideally eliminate) the
gap period between departure and a new appointment.
54Third Audit of Tasmanian Mines Inspectorate, 2014

4.    The Chief Inspector of Mines should attend the annual meeting of Chief Mine
Inspectors of Australia and New Zealand.

5.    I recommend that a visit of at least one week’s duration to another jurisdiction
with a larger mine inspectorate should be available on a two yearly basis for
both metalliferous mine inspectors and any future appointments.

6.    If the interregnum prior to the appointment of a qualified coal mine inspector
is more than six months, an inspection by a qualified coal mine inspector from
another jurisdiction, or equivalent.

7.    Provision should be made for specialist expertise (notably geotechnical
expertise) to be brought in on a consulting basis as required.

8.    The additional training needs identified in this section, including those with
regard to auditing, should be addressed

9.    The adequacy of current arrangements with regard to electrical inspection
should be reviewed.

10. The current organisational structure of the OCIM and location of inspectors is
broadly appropriate and fit for purpose.

11. Either;
a.    Introduce a levy on the industry to fund OCIM, or
b.    allocate a set fraction of mining royalties to cover the costs of the
OCIM

12. a separate salary structure be established that;
a.    for mine inspectors that better reflects the task requirements/expertise
and market demand for these skills.
b.    includes two broad classifications, one for mine inspectors without
mine engineering qualification and another (higher scale) for those
with engineering qualification.
c.    Bases the salary of the Chief Inspector of Mines on a loading/payment
additional to the higher classification to reflect their
administrative/managerial tasks and greater responsibilities.
d.    is periodic benchmarked against salary levels paid in other Australian
mining jurisdictions.

13. The skill set of existing inspectors needs to be upgraded (in the area auditing
in particular).

14. The two engineering qualified inspectors who are most likely to be called out
to a serious mine incident have access to home-garaged vehicles and this
should be extended to the new qualified appointments recommended in this
report.

15. Worksafe Tasmania collects data on notifiable incidents at all mines. I would
recommend this information (suitably anonymised) be forwarded to unions
and the Minerals Council on a six monthly basis.

16. A review of mine safety regulation in Tasmania should be undertaken as soon
as possible to ensure the regulatory framework accords with the best practice
55Third Audit of Tasmanian Mines Inspectorate, 2014
regimes found in Queensland, NSW and now New Zealand. The process
should be facilitated by a tripartite steering committee.

17. It is my strong recommendation that workplace visits should form an essential
element of any subsequent audit of the Mine Safety Unit and Office of Chief
Inspector of Mines, Worksafe Tasmania. I also recommend that a future audit
should include additional attention to quarrying, including several visits to
quarries, at least one of which should be a small operation that has not been
previously inspected.

*Isla MacGregor worked as a researcher and activist for the Tasmanian Public and Environmental Health Network between 2008 and 2014.  Her work focussed on transparency of mining company activities and the effects of pollution on human health and the environment on the West Coast of Tasmania.  Isla had a significant role in defending residents against the MMG Rosebery mine over allegations of poisoning by emissions of toxic heavy metals. From Government documents and environmental consultants reports, Isla identified over 75 mine contaminated waterways in Tasmania some of which have rendered sections of rivers on the west coast biologically dead. In 2015 Isla won the LEAD Group’s Volcano Art Prize for her landmark Exhibition Entropy 1 which is a focus on mine contamination and land sales in the mining town of Zeehan and is currently on display at the Fern Tree Tavern.