AMSJ » Minister failed to use powers to investigate fatal mining accidents

Minister failed to use powers to investigate fatal mining accidents

Minister fails to act on mining safety

The Queensland Parliament has heard that the Minister responsible for mine safety, Dr Anthony Lynham failed to use existing powers to investigate fatal mining accidents.

In an address to Queensland Parliament yesterday, the opposition spokesperson for mining safety, Dale Last, highlighted to Parliament that the the Minister failed to use powers under Part 12 of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act to conduct a board of inquiry into serious accidents across the state.

Mr Last said “This section (Of the Act) expressly provides the minister with the power to establish a board of inquiry into ‘a serious accident’.

“The question that the minister needs to answer is why did he not exercise this power? Workers in the resources industry deserve to know the response to that question.” Mr Last said.

Dale Last LNP Member
Dale Last said the Dr Lynham had failed to use powers.

Under the provisions of Part 12 of the Act, the minister may establish a public board of inquiry into mining accidents. The Act provides for the board to call witnesses to receive evidence on oath, seek documents and offer witnesses the same protection as a witness in a proceeding in the Supreme Court.

Mr Last said that “Despite these powers and widespread calls from throughout the resources sector, this minister did not act.”

Queensland has witnessed eight fatal mining accidents in the past 18 months and a range of significant high potential incidents including a mine fire at Peabody Energy’s North Goonyella mine which ultimately saw the mine be placed under care and maintenance.

North Goonyella causes never revealed

In October 2018, Dr Lynham announced an investigation into the incident that has seen the State of Queensland potentially lose upwards of $90 million in royalties. As at January 2020, there has been no official report into the accident released by the Minister or the Resources Safety and Health Branch.

Department officials advised AMSJ following a Right to Information request in November 2018 “The documents in question relate to an investigation into the possible contravention of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 (the CMSH Act). I am therefore satisfied that the documents relate to the investigation of a contravention or possible contravention of law.”

In August 2019, the Department released a one page preliminary summary of the incident which said little about the cause of the incident or the Department’s role in the incident. “At this time, persons of interest have exercised their right under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 not to be interviewed by the inspectorate unless compelled by law to do so. As such, no
interviews have been conducted yet.” the Department said.

Miner’s families being spun

AMSJ has recently spoken with several families of fallen miners who have passed away over the last twelve months in Queensland. One family member told AMSJ that the Department Family Representative, while cordial in their dealings, told families that investigations had not been finalised because “staff were on leave” but they expect to “finalise soon”. This statement had been made several times over the past months.

Families have also advised AMSJ that Mines Department officials had released more detailed statements to the industry than were supplied to them on the incident.

One family member said ” I found out more at the funeral from workmates than I found out from the Mines Department”.

Minister must be called to account

The blatant failure to conduct Board of Inquiry investigations into serious accidents in Queensland is an important point that Mr Last has made.

Mr Last summed it up well, “Despite these powers and widespread calls from throughout the resources sector, this minister did not act. Queensland’s resource workers deserve the truth. Why did the minister not act and what guarantees do Queenslanders have that the minister will get it right this time round?”

It seems almost incomprehensible that, given the high rate of fatalities in the Queensland mining industry, that the Honourable Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, would not have used powers to ensure families were provided with justice. Let’s hope there’s a reasonable excuse for not conducting a board of inquiry on fatal mining accidents!

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AMSJ April 2022