Mining deaths are on the rise again – but it’s far from Australia’s most dangerous industry
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There have been five mining deaths in Australia so far this year, which is already nearly double 2017 and ahead of the number of fatalities reported at the same time last year.
The most recent fatality occurred at the Baralaba North coal mine west of Gladstone in Queensland’s Bowen Basin, where a 27-year old mine operator was killed.
The worker was an employee of NRW Holdings (ASX:NWH) subsidiary Golding.
This has led to mining union CFMEU declaring a “safety crisis”.
“We’ve been saying there needs to be a major safety reset,” CFMEU Queensland mining and energy president Steve Smyth told the ABC after the incident.
The Baralaba North fatality happened within just six hours of an incident at another coal mine in the region.
A 57-year-old man suffered back and spinal injuries after falling at Glencore’s Collinsville open-cut coal mine.
Following the incidents, Queensland mines minister Anthony Lynham announced the government had appointed three additional mines inspectors and another chief inspector.
It also launched two independent reviews into why mine workers have died over the past 20 years, how industry can improve, how the mines inspectorate can work better, and the effectiveness of the state’s mining health and safety legislation.
“Queensland mines and quarries will implement a safety reset by the end of August for discussions between management, operational staff and relevant union representatives on risks and safe practice,” Lynham said.
Queensland ranked third in terms of the number of mining fatalities between 2013 and 2017.
According to statistics sent to Stockhead from Safe Work Australia, the most fatalities over that five-year period occurred in Western Australia (14 fatalities).
Queensland was next with 10 fatalities, followed by New South Wales, which reported eight fatalities.
A spokesperson for Safe Work Australia said the number of fatalities in the mining industry had varied somewhat in recent years.
While Australia-wide in 2017 there were just three fatalities, in 2018 that tripled to nine.
Up to July 8 this year there have been five mining fatalities, compared to four over the same period last year.
According to Safe Work Australia, the fatality rate (fatalities per 100,000 workers) in the mining industry has been above the all-industry average.
But the federal government-run organisation said the rate had been broadly consistent with the rate in the construction industry and considerably lower than the rate in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industry.
The fatality rate for mining in 2017 was 1.4, while in construction it was 2.7 and in agriculture, forestry and fishing it was 16.5. And according to the most recent figures, agriculture, forestry and fishing only employs around 32% more Australians than mining.
Mining had just three deaths in 2017, while construction reported 36 and agriculture, forestry and fishing reported 52.