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Industrial Relations LATEST NEWS New South Wales

Industry holds talks to revive coal operation

Russell Vale coal mine
Russell Vale coal mine

Hundreds of mine workers might not need to reskill and be redeployed, an advocacy said.

The Mining and Energy Union (MEU) recently contacted authorities to discuss different ways 200 employees can remain at Wollongong Resources’ Russell Vale coal mine.

“We will be seeking discussions with the New South Wales Government at the earliest opportunity to urge a solution for these coal mines that will keep them open,” MEU south western district secretary Andy Davey said in a public statement.

“The Bulli and Wongawilli coal seams produce some of the world’s best metallurgical coal for steel-making. We would like to see these leases handed over to an operator who can run these mines efficiently and safely.”

The remarks came after the proponent called a staff meeting in the car park to announce the mine would permanently shut down.

AMSJ understands parent companies Jindal Steel and Powers made the decision eight months after underground employees accidentally exposed a borehole on 27 May 2023. Methane gas became released and ignited when rocky material came in contact with picks on the continuous miner’s cutting drum. The NSW Resources Regulator has already issued a prohibition notice and production is already suspended.

“Unfortunately despite the operation being compliant and safe to operate we cannot continue with regulatory uncertainty … due to ongoing regulatory risk and lack of support,” an internal email said according to the broadcaster.

“[We will] honour all our financial commitments including employee entitlements.”

Former worker Brent Boland earlier revealed local contractors had interviewed 150 colleagues who were stood down. They are searching for employment as far as Mudgee, Narrabri and Queensland.

“We understand the regulator has to do its job enforcing the safe operation of coal mines, leading to this decision by Jindal Steel and Power,” Davey said.

“It is a sad day for the region because of the long history of coal mining at Russell Vale. It is always difficult to lose so many local jobs, with the flow-on effect to families and community.”

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