Mining union says BHP should give up mine lease

April 19, 2012

The Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union (CFMEU) has demanded that BHP Billiton surrender its lease on the Norwich Park coalmine, near Dysart in Central Queensland. The BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) combine announced early this month that it would shut down the mine because it was allegedly losing money.

BMA has laid partial blame on the long-running industrial dispute with mineworkers in Queensland for losses at Norwich Park and other mines in the state.

The April 17 Courier Mail said CFMEU general secretary Andrew Vickers called for BMA to forfeit the lease on the mine if it did not plan to keep it open. “If BHP doesn't think Norwich Park is worth the effort, it should do the decent thing and hand back its lease to the state government and allow an operator with less focus on super profits to have a go," Vickers said.

“This is export quality coking coal that belongs to all Queenslanders. It's time for BHP to use it or lose it.

“The closure merely underlines BHP's ruthlessness when it comes to only pursuing operations turning over super profits."

Vickers told the Courier Mail that BHP had a record of shutting down mines that other companies later re-opened, including Queensland’s Cook and Moura collieries and mines in the Newcastle region.

The CFMEU is concerned that the shutdown of Norwich Park mine will destroy the local town of Dysart. BMA says it will try to relocate mineworkers to the Saraji mine nearby, said the Courier Mail.

Mine safety has been a key issue in the breakdown of negotiations between BMA and the union.

The April 19 Courier Mail said Vickers wrote in a union newsletter that no other Australian company came within a "bull's roar of BHP's tragic safety record. This is why we don't want to compromise on safety with this company.”

BHP has won an order from Fair Work Australia to hold a postal ballot on its proposed new workplace agreement covering BMA’s seven Central Queensland mines, the April 20 Courier Mail reported. The ballot will be held from April 27 to May 18.

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