- The Guardian
- Issue #2042
The Premier coal mine, Collie, Western Australia. Photo: Calistemon – commons.wikimedia.org (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Last week two mineworkers, Dylan Langridge and Trevor Davis, were killed at work at the Dugald River zinc mine in north-west Queensland.
Just prior to the tragedy the Mining and Energy Union issued the following statement of concern over mine safety in Queensland:
Queensland mineworkers have had enough of coal companies and senior mine executives going unpunished over serious and fatal workplace accidents.
The union is calling on the Queensland government to get serious about prosecuting coal companies and individuals whose actions have led to workers being killed or severely injured at work after a series of tragic fatalities in the industry.
The union has launched a campaign urging mineworkers and community members to write to the [Queensland] Minister for Resources, Scott Stewart, and Minister for Industrial Relations, Grace Grace, asking for justice for their colleagues killed at work.
“I’m sick of sitting down with the families of members we’ve lost and trying to explain why no one has been held accountable,” says Stephen Smyth, MEU Queensland District President.
“Grieving families and communities hear time and time again that no charges are laid, or charges are laid and dropped, or cases are indefinitely held up.
“In 2020 five miners at the Grosvenor Mine were horrifically burned in an explosion and despite a Board of Inquiry finding Anglo American knew gas emissions generated by the rate of production exceeded drainage capacity no one has been prosecuted.
“After David Routledge was crushed by a wall at Middlemount Mine in 2019 charges initially brought against a senior manager were dropped.
“Charges laid against the mine operator and a senior mine executive after the death of Brad Duxbury at the Carborough Downs Mine in 2019 were rejected due to a legal technicality.
“In 2021 Graham Dawson was crushed by a collapsing roof at Crinum Mine and despite risk management plans falling short and the failure to deploy strata monitoring devices no charges have been laid.
“It’s time for Ministers in the Queensland government to get serious about prosecuting companies whose workers are killed on the job as everyone has the right to return safely from work each day.
“We want guidelines for prosecutions to be reviewed and to take into account the need for mining workers, families and communities to see justice pursued over fatalities in their industry. And when charges can’t be laid, or charges are dropped, we want the relevant authorities to provide a clear explanation,” said Smyth.
Graham Dawson’s daughters Katrina and Leesh added their voices to the campaign, saying: “Our father lost his life working underground. For families like ours, the consequences of a tragic workplace accident burden us every day. We’re supporting the Justice for Miners campaign and urging the government to ensure mining companies are held accountable when they allow death and injury to occur on their watch.”
After Western Australia, Queensland is the second biggest mining state in the country. Over the 141 years, from 1882 to the start of 2023, there have been 441 deaths in Queensland’s coal mining sector, while 1,065 people have died in the mineral mining and quarrying sector, according to Resources Safety & Health Queensland (RSQH).
Since 2015, 14 people have died in the state’s coal mining industry and nine lives have been lost to the mineral and quarrying sector.