Union calls for safety audit of Australian mining industry

CFMEU calls for rethink after storm flattens buildings at Peak Downs mine in central Queensland

Dominic Ellis
|Nov 16|magazine5 min read

A central Queensland mine is in the process of a major clean up after a massive storm flattened a workshop and a large shed - prompting calls from the mining union for a safety audit of all structures on mine sites.

Buildings at BHP’s Peak Downs mine were destroyed after a wild storm tore through the Bowen Basin on November 13. As a result of the damage, the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union says a rethink is needed on the way buildings and structures are rated for safety and wind speeds.

"The only shining light out of this was no-one was injured, which is great," says CFMEU’s Steve Smythe. 

"Our safety reps were out there yesterday having a look around, but certainly there's going to have to be a rethink not just of Peak Downs but across the industry with storm season on the way,” he adds, pointing out that mining companies and their contractors have been erecting flimsy structures, akin to what someone would build in their backyard – but on a much larger scale.

"Companies and contractors have gone and put these in place as a stop-gap measure but, as with anything, they end up staying there as a full-time structure for trucks and people to work in and under," he says.

Smythe states that while mining companies make their own audits to ensure such structures were installed to an adequate standard of safety, the Mining Department should also carry out inspections to ensure workplace safety, and to distribute safety information to all mines.

"A couple of years ago we had dongas, or crib rooms, which turned over in storms at the Jelinbah Mine, which resulted in people being caught in the crib rooms," he points out, adding that, "People are aware of this and normally tie them down, but there needs to be a more concerted effort done to ensure they are secure and people will not be put at risk."

BHP says that a clean-up is underway and that its safety systems in place meant that people were prepared, which resulted in no one being injured and operations not being disrupted. It adds that operations on the Peak Downs mine are ramping back up.

The Peak Downs mine is a large open cut coking coal mine in Queensland, located 31 kilometres South-Southeast of the town of Moranbah. 

It is one of seven mines in the Bowen Basin owned by the BHP Mitsubishi Alliance, Australia’s largest coal miner and exporter. It also owns and operates the Hay Point Coal Terminal near Mackay.

ABC report
Mining Global magazine