Proposed law would increase punishment for mining executives in Australia

February 4, 2020

New laws proposed in Queensland, Australia would toughen the punishment for mining executives if they were to be found criminally negligent in the death of workers at a mine or quarry. Executives could face up to 20 years in jail and the companies could be hit with fines of up to $13 million under the new laws introduced by the government this week.

The propose laws come following eight deaths mining-related deaths over the past two years in Queensland.

Queensland Mining Minister Anthony Lynham said the new industrial manslaughter laws will bring mining into line with other sectors.

Australia’s Financial Review reported that under the proposed laws, senior officers of a mine or quarry company can be tried for industrial manslaughter if criminal negligence is proven for a worker's death.

“It is totally unacceptable that workers continue to die in our resources workplaces,” Lynham said. “This will bring the conduct of senior officers and corporations clearly into focus in relation to safety in resources sector workplaces.

“These laws will give our 50,000 mine and quarry workers the same protection as other Queensland workers."

Maximum penalties range up to a $13 million fine for a company and 20 years' jail for executives. The current maximum jail term for mining safety breaches is three years for multiple deaths.

The new legislation also includes reforms to existing mine rehabilitation and financial assurance laws.

Unions welcomed the new laws that were introduced after a string of deaths, including six in the mining sector and two in quarries, which raised concerns about the priority of safety in the multibillion-dollar sector.

Although originally opposed to the tough new laws, the Queensland Resources Council has backed the changes for people who work in the state's mining sector.

But QRC chief executive Ian Macfarlane said they did not want the new mining laws to weaken the mine safety reforms introduced two decades ago following the Moura 2 mine tragedy, which killed 11 workers in 1994.

“QRC believes it is critical the reforms developed in the wake of that tragedy remain in force and are built upon,” Macfarlane said.

“QRC will continue to work with government and unions to achieve that end.”

After the eighth death in January, which occurred following a safety reset at all mines and quarries, the CFMEU said something had to be done quickly to end the "carnage" in the mining sector.

CFMEU mining and energy division president Steve Smyth has said casualization of the workforce and a culture where people were scared to speak out were factors in the recent deaths.

 

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