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Byerwen Q&A

Q: Why is QCoal launching a campaign on behalf of its workers at the Byerwen mine in Central Queensland?

A: Because the Queensland Government introduced an amendment to the Queensland Mining Act, attached to a Child Protection Bill, which severely discriminates against one workforce, at one mine.

Q: What did the legislation do to QCoal and its workers?

A: The legislation targeted the QCoal miner’s camp at its Byerwen mine and will force it to progressively close over the next five years, forcing its workforce of up to 800, to move to the nearby town of Glenden.

Q: Did the State Government consult or warn Byerwen or QCoal it was going to introduce this legislation?

A: No, QCoal was not notified, and the workers were not consulted prior to this decision being made.

Q: Did QCoal, as claimed by Resources Minister Scott Stewart, “urgently” ask for this legislation?

A: It is farcical to suggest that QCoal would be campaigning so hard against legislation it asked the government to introduce. It is a lie by the Minister to claim that we asked for a secret amendment which was introduced without notice or consultation, rammed through Parliament in 24 hours with less than half an hour debate. It is farcical to suggest QCoal would ask for legislation which will cost us up to 80 per cent of our workforce and accept the additional cost and health and safety concerns of moving them to a town without essential facilities and run and operated by a competitor for the last 40 years.

Q: Was the Queensland Parliament given appropriate opportunity to review and debate the legislation?

A: No, the amendment was introduced with 18 minutes notice. It did not undergo the normal Parliamentary Committee review and was attached to legislation which the State Government knew would receive bipartisan support and therefore could not be opposed. The legislation was introduced on Wednesday August 23, 2024, and rammed through Parliament the following day, Thursday August 24, before Parliament rose for the week.

Q: Why was Byerwen’s workforce targeted by this legislation?

A: We do not know. Glenden was established by Glencore (and its predecessor companies) to provide accommodation for the nearby Newlands Mine. With that mine being closed Glencore announced it was removing hundreds of workers’ cabins and other accommodation from Glenden. However, Glencore also owns the Hail Creek mine, the same distance from Glenden as Byerwen, where it has a fully approved (April 2022) camp for 1000 workers.

Q: Did QCoal promise to move its workforce into Glenden when it was granted the mining leases for Byerwen?

A: No, QCoal did not commit to forcing workers to live in Glenden. QCoal did commit to offering workers the choice of living in Glenden and has honoured that promise through the provision of 16 homes for workers in Glenden. QCoal has attempted to purchase more property in the town but has been unable to do so because it is not available.

Q: Why were other mining companies, such as Glencore with it’s 1000-person Hail Creek camp only 40km from Glenden, not included in the so-called “save Glenden” solution?

A: It is the number one question our affected workers are asking. Why were they targeted? We just don’t know why the government played favourites.


Q: Is QCoal a Queensland company?

A: Yes, QCoal is Queensland owned and operated and has been mining in the State since it was established in 1989. It operates coal mines in the Bowen basin and supports employees across regional Queensland.

Q: What is QCoal?

A: QCoal was established by founder Chris Wallin in 1989 after leaving the Queensland Government where he was the Principal Coal Geologist and subsequently working in the mining industry for a number of years. Over the last 35 years QCoal has established five coal mines, currently operates six and is one of the few companies to have conducted continuous exploration throughout that period. QCoal exports approximately 15 million tonnes of coal a year, primarily premium coking coal used in steel production. The company has paid more than $1.6 billion of royalties and tax payment to State and Federal Government and has supported almost 1,700 Queensland businesses with more than $7.6 billion spent on goods and services. It currently supports approximately 1800 employees.

More than $11 million has been contributed to local communities and families, including through the work of the QCoal Foundation. 

Q: Is QCoal against saving Glenden?

A: No. QCoal owns properties in Glenden and has supported the town for many years. QCoal does not believe the secret legislation will actually save Glenden. QCoal is happy to continue to support the town but does not believe its workforce should be forced to pay the price for doing so when other nearby mines are excluded.

Q: Why does forcing QCoal to close its camp affect the Byerwen mine viability in the years ahead?

A: QCoal currently employs more than 800 workers. Those workers largely work in 7 days on, 7 days off shifts, either day, or night, and 12.5 hours long. More than 50% of these workers already live within two hours drive from Byerwen, primarily in Isaac, Whitsunday, and Mackay council areas and 90% overall live in regional Queensland.

These workers already live in regional towns in central and north Queensland. Up to 80% of the current workforce has told QCoal they have no interest in moving to Glenden or leaving the camp and will, instead, reluctantly resign from QCoal and Byerwen to work for a mine where they can remain in a camp.

This will force Byerwen to essentially employ an entirely new workforce, one which is willing to live in Glenden rather than at a camp, and in a market where it is extremely difficult to attract skilled workers.

Q: Why does living in Glenden endanger workers more than living at the current camp?

A: While many people commute for more than 40 minutes to work across Queensland, the impact of forcing workers to live in Glenden is far more than the commute time. Byerwen’s workforce would have to be transported by bus every shift, up to eight buses in and out of Glenden each 12.5 hour shift, along a 40 minute drive on mining and a regional road which has seen a number of fatalities. These workers would be adding up to two hours a day to their 12.5 hour day for this bus travel by the time they have reached their accommodation in Glenden. They would need to cook and maintain their own property in the town, and travel to Mackay for grocery shopping as there is no supermarket, pharmacy, newsagent, restaurants, full time police force or permanent doctor in town.

Q: What does the Byerwen workers’ camp provide?

A: It is less than five minutes commute from the Byerwen mine and provides free airconditioned rooms with Wi Fi, TV, fridge and ensuite bathroom. Free meals are available for workers along with a free gym and entertainment facilities. There is a wet bar and beer garden facility, laundromats, a basketball half court, and an on-site corner store.

Q: Why did QCoal lose the planning and environment court case on the workers’ camp appeal?

A: QCoal applied for approvals for the camp under the Queensland Mineral Resources Act, which was approved, and under the Planning Act. Unfortunately, Isaac Regional Council changed the scheme to its new policy of enforcing residency of the miners in Glenden. Due to the change in the scheme, that position was upheld by the court. QCoal still believes it was unfair to move the goalposts after the applications had been made, and the mine and its campa had been approved.

The court decision also failed to take into account the fundamental changes in the mining industry from a residency-based approach 40 years ago to a drive in, drive out preference by workers today.

Q: Did QCoal promise to force its Byerwen mine workforce to live in Glenden as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

A: No, we did not. QCoal has always stated that it will make best efforts to accommodate any workers who wish to live in Glenden, but that the primary choice would remain with the worker as to whether they lived in the town or at a camp. At the time of the EIS and the subsequent final approval of the mine by the Office of the Coordinator General (OCG) QCoal had every intention of offering workers at Byerwen the option of living in Glenden, as it does today. Remember, at this time, Glenden had a much higher population and full facilities such as small IGA supermarket, pharmacy, newsagent and doctor. It was also being run as a full-time mining camp servicing the Glencore Newlands mine.

As per the EIS and subsequent OCG approval, the stated strategy included:

  1. Giving workers a choice of accommodation options:

    1. Camp to be built for those who did not which to become residents of Glenden

    2. Housing/duplex for those who wish to become residents

  2. While it was not possible to know what percentage of workers would want to move to Glenden and become residents, for the purposes of initial planning, we assumed 30%

  3. OCG noted in its approval that the project commitment made by QCoal in the EIS stated: “Byerwen Coal intends to provide a range of accommodation options so that the workers have a genuine choice of where they would like to live – either locally or remotely in which case they will be able to travel in and out of town for their shift rosters.”

  4. OCG specifically notes: “If the land is not acquired or relevant approvals not granted, then proponent will seek to locate the accommodation camp outside of Glenden either at or near the mining lease”.


Q: Has QCoal attempted to acquire land and housing in Glenden to provide the options for workers to live there if they choose.


A: Yes. QCoal currently owns 13 properties and leases three other homes. All are either accommodated by Byerwen workers or in the process of being accommodated by new tenants. QCoal also purchased a significant portion of vacant land in the town to potentially build a workers’ camp in the town, but the Education Department stated that the land could not be used for a camp as it was too close to the school. That was the only available freehold title large enough for a camp within the town.  QCoal has attempted to purchase other properties in the town but they are currently unavailable or in very poor condition due to asbestos and/or termite infestation.


Q: Why doesn’t QCoal use the accommodation owned by Glencore?


A: That accommodation is not available for use by workers at Byerwen.


Q: Has QCoal ever committed to forcing workers to live in Glenden?


A: No, at no time in any of the process of the Environmental Impact Statement or the subsequent OCG review and approval for Byerwen did QCoal ever state it would force its workers to live in Glenden accommodation. At the time of approval, a decade ago, it was expected that up to 30 per cent of the workforce might choose to live in Glenden and that QCoal would build a camp to house the subsequent 70 per cent either in the town or at the mining lease. As no land has been found within the town, QCoal built its camp at the mining lease as it stated it would during the EIS process.


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