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TAS Unions advise new mining laws hard to enforce

Friday, October 08, 2010

Inspectors will be given greater powers to shut down unsafe Tasmanian mines, but unions warn the nation's resources boom will make it hard to find qualified inspectors willing to work in the state.

Strict new safety laws have been written in response to the 2006 rockfall at Beaconsfield that killed Larry Knight and trapped two other miners underground for a fortnight.

The Beaconsfield rockfall brought international attention to mine safety in Tasmania, but Mr Knight is not the only Tasmanian miner to be killed in the past 10 years.

In 2000 a coal miner was killed at Fingal and in 2001 two miners were killed by a rock fall at the Renison tin mine on the west coast.

Two years later another miner died in a similar incident at the tin mine.

An inquest into Mr Knight's death made several recommendations on mine safety.

The Government says one of the reasons the new safety laws have taken so long to draw up is that it has been working with unions, the Minerals Council and the mining industry.

The new laws will also set up specific standards for underground ventilation.

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) says the laws should make miners' jobs safer.

"As long as there is adequate resourcing of the mines inspectorate to enforce the new arrangements, then they should represent a step forward for safety in our mining sector," spokesman Robert Flanagan said.

But he says it could be hard to find enough inspectors.

"I think it's understood by everyone that sourcing specialist mining skills for the inspectorate is challenging, given they are occupations which are highly sought after in a mining boom and therefore carry a level of remuneration substantially higher than what a workplace standards inspector would otherwise expect to attract," he said.

The Government will take its new mine safety bill into Parliament next week, where it is set to get support from all sides of politics.

Opposition spokeswoman Vanessa Goodwin says it is outrageous that the Government has waited so long to introduce the mine safety bill.

"I of course welcome the new mine safety legislation, but I wish it had occurred much sooner," she said.

"I think that given that we've had five mine safety deaths over the past 10 years, it is something the Government really should have acted on much sooner."

Reported by ABC News


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