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Hundreds more mining jobs to go -

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Hundreds more mining jobs to go

The World Today - Thursday, 26 March , 2009 12:26:00

Reporter: Annie Guest

ELEANOR HALL: The mining giant BHP Billiton is preparing to sack 400 miners at the company's
central Queensland coal mine. This brings the number of miners laid off across the country in
recent months to more than 11,000.

Mining unions are warning that the workers have few prospects of finding jobs elsewhere but the
mayor of Australia's biggest coal mining region says the local economy hasn't collapsed yet.

In Brisbane, Annie Guest reports.

ANNIE GUEST: Workers turning up for shifts at two central Queensland coal mines have been hearing
the bad news.

Steve Pierce is from the mining division of the CFMEU (Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union).

STEVE PIERCE: Oh they're pretty shattered at the moment. Obviously they're going to be unemployed.
They're going to be looking, you know they're going to be looking for employment.

But as I said, given that there are a very large number of both tradespeople and operators that
have been made redundant since Christmastime then employment within the industry is almost
nonexistent.

ANNIE GUEST: The contractors work at coal mines operated by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, known
as BMA. Macmahon Contractors and HMP Constructions have told The World Today BMA has told them
their mining contracts won't be renewed.

In total, they'll axe up to 400 jobs at Goonyella Mine at Moranbah and Norwich Park near Dysart in
the next few months, although they may find jobs elsewhere for some people.

In January BHP Billiton foreshadowed cuts at its New South Wales and Queensland coal mines. Today
it wouldn't talk or confirm job losses, with a spokeswoman saying the company doesn't intend giving
a running commentary on the cuts.

The union's Steve Pierce again:

STEVE PIERCE: As I understand from talking to our members out there that yesterday morning and the
previous night at the start of the shift senior management people called them all in and advised
them that BHP had advised their respective companies that they weren't proceeding with
pre-stripping contracts beyond the 30th of April.

ANNIE GUEST: And pre-stripping is the process of removing the top soil etc from the coal prior to
mining. There were some announcements earlier this year from BHP that there would be cuts in its
coal mines, so were workers prepared to some extent for this announcement?

STEVE PIERCE: No. There was obviously a view that given the numbers of contractors at different BHP
sites that had been finished up since Christmas and that none of these companies had been advised
by BMA that their contracts were at risk, that there was a view that obviously these pre-stripping
contracts and the work these people were engaged to do was going to continue.

ANNIE GUEST: It brings to more than 11,000 the number of miners whose jobs have been axed
Australia-wide since the economic downturn. Some mines have been shut down, including nickel and
copper operations in Western Australia and Queensland. Others have scaled back expansion plans or
production.

The mines suffering the cuts revealed today are in the central Queensland's Isaac Regional Council.
The Mayor, Cedric Marshall, explains the importance of coal mining to the region.

CEDRIC MARSHALL: This (inaudible) mine, there was 80-million tonne of coal rolled out of it last
year so that gives you a bit of an idea. We've got 26 operating coal mines.

ANNIE GUEST: But Councillor Marshall says so far the local economy is holding up.

CEDRIC MARSHALL: The majority of these people who have been retrenched have been living in
single-person villages right across my region and they come from various towns, be they Mackay,
Rocky, Brisbane, wherever. They're like what they refer to as a fly-in-fly-out. But they use, and
they don't have a real impact on the towns, minimal impact.

It's more the families from the permanent side of the employee workforce that has an effect in our
towns, but up 'til now fortunately it's only been very minimal.

ANNIE GUEST: And what are you hearing, if anything, from these coal miners about further
retrenchments and plans to cut back production?

CEDRIC MARSHALL: Well that will depend on, I know the contracts are going to be renegotiated before
the end of the financial year. Whether that has any effect down the track I, you know, I haven't
got a crystal ball.

ELEANOR HALL: The Mayor of Isaac Regional Council Cedric Marshall ending that report from Annie
Guest.