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Mine workers told where to go by State Government

Updated: Mar 28

  • Special legislation introduced targeting one mine and its 800 workers

  • No consultation, no choice, no review by Parliamentary Committee

  • Campaign launched to fight for the miners’ rights to choose where they live


The State Government has threatened the jobs of almost 800 Central Queensland mine workers and Queensland’s international reputation through secret legislation introduced in an attempt to save the small regional mining town of Glenden.


The so-called “save Glenden” campaign has been exposed as little more than a photo opportunity for Resource Minister Scott Stewart as the proposed legislation is unworkable and will not save the town. 


The Byerwen mine, 38 kilometres from Glenden and two hours from Mackay, was hit with a targeted new law designed to shut down its current mining camp and force workers to travel at least 40 minutes on an unsafe road after a 12.5-hour shift.


The move by the State Government comes despite approving a permanent 1000 person workers’ camp at Glencore’s Hail Creek coal mine the same distance from Glenden.

Despite claims by the State Government during the short parliamentary debate on the Bill, the Byerwen mine workers and QCoal had never seen, supported, called for, or approved the secretive and discriminatory legislation.


QCoal Group Executive James Black said the way the legislation was introduced by the State Government and the lack of consultation with the workers they allege to represent was deceitful and hypocritical.  


“This secretive legislation to shut down an existing camp and force workers to live in a town they do not want to live did not go before any Parliamentary Committee, and was attached to legislation designed to protect children,” Mr Black said.


“These workers have been told where to go by the State Government. They have been denied the basic human choice of where they live.


“Under the banner of ‘save Glenden’ the State Government has played favourites between our Queensland-owned and operated mining company and a Swiss-based multinational, and of course we and our workers are the losers.


“This is a cynical decision to make an issue go away in an election year. We all want to save Glenden but why are the Byerwen miners the only ones paying the price.”

The issue is exacerbated by the fact that there is no available accommodation in Glenden to meet the legislative requirements as it is currently owned by Glencore, who will not allow access to anyone working on Byerwen mine.


“Even if we wanted to honour this appalling legislation, we can’t. The State Government cares nothing for the actual outcome, they just wanted the headline,” Mr Black said.


“I ask anyone in Queensland during the current crime epidemic, would they live in a town with one police officer who finishes work at 4pm? Would they live in a town without a permanent doctor, a pharmacy, a newsagent, a supermarket or even a takeaway restaurant?


“These miners work 12.5-hour shifts and currently travel five minutes to a camp with free food, exercise and entertainment facilities. These are not FIFO workers, they are drive in, drive out workers whose families already live in Central and North Queensland.”


“This change will add up to two hours a day in travel time on buses on a country road. These are regional Queenslanders, more than half already live within two hours of Byerwen and 90 per cent live in regional Queensland, they are not moving their families to Glenden.”


The amendment to the Queensland Mining Act was introduced in State Parliament on August 23, 2023, with 18 minutes notice and attached to the Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill.


The Byerwen mine produces five million tonnes of coal a year for export, primarily the premium coking coal needed to produce steel.


Byerwen has a 15 percent equity partner in Japanese giant JFE Steel Corporation, which has expressed deep concern that it could retrospectively affect the existing mine leases at Byerwen and the $2 billion commitment the partners have already made to the mine.

“This is high quality coking coal used to produce the steel we need for wind turbines and electric cars, so this is not about an environmental debate, it is about politics pure and simple,” Mr Black said.


“Once again, the State Government has severely and negatively impacted Queensland’s reputation as a place to invest as JFE and QCoal were not consulted, or even told, of the legislation which threatens to cancel the existing leases if Byerwen does not comply.”

Mr Black said the company had spent months trying to negotiate with the State Government to overturn the decision but had met a stone wall with focus on the State election campaign seeming to be more important than workers’ safety.


“We are now forced, for the first time in our 35-year history, to launch a public campaign to highlight the unfairness of this decision and the direct impact on our workers, real people whose lives have been turned upside down by this decision,” he said.


The campaign will involve partner companies under the banner of Energy Resources Queensland and include an extensive advertising campaign focused on the regional areas of Queensland where mining families live.


“If the focus was really on saving Glenden, why wasn’t Glencore, the company responsible for the mining camp at Glenden, also legislated to move its 1000-person Hail Creek coal mine camp workforce into the town? It makes no sense. The two mines, and camps, are virtually the same distance from Glenden. Why one and not the other?

“This was just smoke and mirrors to make a political issue for the State Government go away, it was not designed to actually save anyone,” Mr Black said.


For more information contact QCoal Head of Communications Paul Turner on pturner@qcoal.com.au or 0408850270.


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