My Submission is below
RECOMMENDATIONS QUEENSLAND MINES INSPECTOR STRUCTURE
1) The Coal Mining Inspectors be broken into Open Cut and Underground as areas of Principal Responsibilities.
2) A Deputy Chief Inspector (Open Cut) position be created and filled.
3) New group of Mining Inspectors be specifically recruited from currently working or very recently retired Open Cut Examiners and ERZ Controllers (Mine Deputies).
4) They be employed as full Inspectors, not Inspection Officers.
5) Training program be developed and implemented to allow successful recruits to gain additional Competencies (for example Ventilation Officer, Audit of Safety Systems, Emergency Response.)
6) All Inspectors must have demonstrated recognised Queensland Coal Mining Competencies including passing a current Queensland Mining Law exam and Board of Examiners Oral exam as a precondition for being a candidate. They must also have worked in Queensland Mines.
7) The CEO of RSHQ must have demonstrated Queensland Mining Competencies including passing a Mining Law exam and Board of Examiners Oral exam. They must also have worked in Queensland Mines.
Open Cut Mines were virtually nonexistent in 1925.
Since the CMSHA 1999 cam into force the open cut mines have become deeper, subject to becoming spoil bound, more complex with more mine workers and mobile plant and encountering gases normally associated with underground operations.
The frequency and size of shots has become greater and incidents involving large visible toxic blast fume clouds occur. This in addition to the fly-rock and misfire incidents.
It was only in the early 1970’s that Mines such as Goonyella Riverside and Peak Downs the largest and likely deepest operating open cut mines commenced.
- OCE’s are the Senior Statutory official in the Open Cut.
- The OCE, by the Act and Regulations has to hold the relevant Mining Competencies.
- Open Cut Site Senior Executives and all other Management positions do not.
- Both OCE’s and ERZ Controllers have to actually work to the Act and Regulations and the Mines SHMS as part of their daily job to ensure the health and safety of the workers
- Both OCE’s and ERZC know what it is like to actually work down mine every day, all day. Not just come down from the air conditioned office, get chauffeured around and then go up for a shower and back to the air conditioned office.
The Model used to recruit and retain “Qualified” Coal Mines Inspectors is broken and has been broken for over 130 years.
The Current CIOCM holds a Qld First Class Ticket issued prior to the 1999 Act. The CIOCM confirmed in person that he has never been the Underground Mine Manager or Site Senior Executive in Queensland under the 1999 CMSHA and CMSHR 2001
One Inspector from New Zealand has a First-Class Ticket via mutual Recognition.
The only other, I believe has been a long-term Queensland Mines Inspector.
One, from NSW, holds a NSW second Class ticket and then worked in Western Australia (where he was recruited from) for a number of years, but not in Coal Mines.
He is now a Regional Inspector of Coal Mines in Queensland
From the evidence at the Grosvenor Inquiry, it looks to have become seriously worse since 2008, the last time the Ombudsman reviewed the Mines Inspectorate.
When I first started in the Mines in 1982, a notice from the Inspectorate would send the Mine Management into a frenzy.
Particularly if it was Barry Biggam in the Northern Coalfields or John Brady at Moura
For several days, the Management would ensure the Mine was compliant with the Act and the General, Underground and Special Rules.
Stonedust would be liberally applied and on one occasion I witnessed and participated in, even the surface from the portals and workshop and office area.
Mine Managers who prided themselves on being supposed “hard men” would literally bow and scrape with a series of “Yes (Barry or John) we will fix that immediately.”
An Inspection by the CIOCM was maybe a once in a year event, treated by the Management as though one of the Royal Family was coming.
William Fryar became the first Queensland inspector of mines and held the senior post, the Southern Division, until he retired in June 1904.
The son of Thomas Fryar (mining engineer), he immigrated to Queensland, Australia in 1853.
At intervals between 1864 and 1882, Fryar worked in the Lands Department as a licensed surveyor in the south-eastern regions of Maroochy and Mooloolah.
Between 1873 and 1877 Mr Fryar was a member of the Queensland Parliament and for a time served as Lands Minister
As far as I can ascertain Mr Fryar held no specific Coal Mining Qualifications. He was a Surveyor.
Since that time as far as I am aware the number of Chief Inspectors of Mines who did their Mining and obtained the First-Class tickets in Queensland and worked in Queensland Coal Mines until being appointed CIOCM is the grand total of 1, Russell Albury.
(I have not been able to ascertain the background of the long serving CIOCM Graham Hardy)
In what could be termed the “colony cringe” and other reasons that appear to be the Queensland inferiority complex, the Queensland Mine Ministers when employing a CIOCM or Inspector have turned to Mine Managers who are either recruited directly from the “Old Country” or have been working in Australia since immigrating.
Otherwise without fail, they have recruited Managers who have spent almost if not all of their working life in New South Wales and did their Mining Education and obtained their Statutory Qualifications in New South Wales.
Queensland introduced its first Coal Mining Act in 1925 following the Mount Mulligan Disaster in 1925.
This despite the Torbanlea Royal Commission recommending a separate Coal Mining Act in 1900.
I have gone through all the Queensland Disasters involving gas from Torbanlea, to Mount Mulligan Collinsville, Kianga, Box Flat, Moura 2, Moura 4.
I have yet to find any instances where the Queensland Chief Inspector of Mines was other than an Interstate or Old Country Manager.
I have met and worked with and for a great number of these interstate and overseas recruits either as Managers or Inspectors including in the last 20 years from South Africa.
I also dealt with them at numerous Mines while an ISHR between 1999 and 2006, and a number of them were fine to work and deal with.
However, I have identified a number of issues in Queensland Mines that many struggle with.
- Thick seam mining and spontaneous combustion
- Coal Roof
- Roof less competent than the conglomerate or sandstone type material quite common in New South Wales
- Working under Queensland Legislation.
- Coming to terms with being an Inspector, not a Mine Manager.
In the mid 2000’s one Inspector based out of Mackay openly told both myself and Greg Dalliston on several occasions, that one of the first questions he asked the Mine Manager was.
“What is the industrial climate at the Mine?”
This was so he could rate down the seriousness of any complaints made to him if the Industrial climate was bad.
As well when it comes to open cut mining many are well out of their depth.
Queensland Open Cuts as far as I am aware are some of the deepest in the world due to mining high price coking coal. They are multi seam, multi pass operations using pre-strip fleets, multiple draglines, overburden truck and shovel fleets and coal fleets.
Module mining is in vogue where there are multiple work groups/departments are working together, above and or below each other at the same time.
Not enough focus is put on the hazards associated with interactions and methods of mining.
Despite the names used the Low Wall in most instances are higher than the highwall and with the angle or repose and weight of the overburden and can often be sitting on weak clay type strata.
Some dragline operations have approved the steeping of the angle of repose from 37 degrees to 42 degrees in order to reduce productivity cost moving less over-burden.
Open cut mining industry is also seeing the practice of dumping in behind the first spoil peaks of low-walls, this requires specialist geo-technical recommendations and risk assessment.
Many of the controls maybe sound if a solid experienced cross section is formed.
But with the introduction fleet control systems, the direction of equipment can be done by people who are not in pit or aware of specific controls that are required for certain dumps.
Some of these controllers are 1000klms away.
The actual operational area of the coal mining operations, are often only as wide as the SHMS states for 2 way vehicle movement plus highwall and low wall exclusion zones.
Just the weight of the low wall can cause floor heave at such speed and extent that the largest Front End Loaders belly out and cannot move.
I have seen this at Goonyella Riverside Mine where the Loader concerned was tipped over by the floor heave.
Couple this with the above mentioned, there’s a catastrophe waiting to happen.
To my way of thinking Low Wall Stability and the amount of material that would potentially move in a major low wall failure is one of the greatest yet under=estimated or even out right dismissed Principal Hazards in the Open cut.
There is clearly a Principal Hazard as defined under the CMSHA 1999
20 Meaning of principal hazard
A principal hazard at a coal mine is a hazard at the coal mine with the potential to cause multiple fatalities.
Few of the current Mine Inspectors have worked in Queensland let alone a Queensland Open Cut.
A current OCE relayed to me how after much agitation, he got a Mines Inspector to attend the Mine due to wall stability problems.
He took the Inspector to the problem area/s
He was extremely disappointed in the attitude and what appeared to be lack of knowledge of the Inspector especially in relation to multi mechanism geotechnical issues that were plain to see to the trained eye but required some thoughtful management, not only did the inspector not recognize the extent of the issues, he couldn’t identify the failure in the controls.
All the Inspector could focus on was a Water Truck with a mud obscured vehicle number on the back.
On another occasion gas became an issue at the same open cut mine, it was identified by the same OCE that the SHMS and the management of gas was non-compliant and the Trigger Action Response Plan went against industry recommendations
These were eventually corrected after a very long period of time, many HPI events that included the withdrawal of CMW’s from the affected areas. Not one single visit to the mine to investigate the reported incidents or associated methods of mining and incident management.
It was clear that open cut gas management seemed to scare the inspectorate, as it required a different approach to underground gas management due to the different operation and environmental conditions that come into play.
Experienced supervision is extremely lacking in open cut mining, at the onset of this BOI the same mine mentioned above didn’t have blast crew supervisors with a shotfirers ticket.
This has accumulated in many explosive related incidents and injuries the same mine also had production supervisors in charge of large production crews who only had very limited equipment competencies and had little mining experience giving directions to CMW’s.
This is a scary place to be when supervisors don’t fully understand what they are supervising but only understand production targets.
But in say that it appears the inspectors are in the same boat as these supervisors, I can’t name one that’s well versed in most aspects of open cut mining let alone actually worked and performed the duties of an OCE in one mine let alone have gained experience from a number of mines.
The troubles are well documented in the Ombudsman 2008 Report (Attachment 1)
Since 2008 the pay differential between being a Mines Inspectors has increased.
Underground Mine Managers currently are reported to be on base $1 Million plus Salary Packages.
The pay of an Inspector compared to an OCE or ERZC working 7-day roster would not be anything like that. I am not aware of many fulltime OCE’s or ERZC who earn anywhere near $1 Million per year.
I am informed that the industry standard for OCE’s working 7 day x 12hr rosters is between $180k and $215k
2008 OMBUDSMAN REPORT EXCERPTS
Over the past few years, there have been numerous reports in various media articles and academic publications alleging that the QMI (along with mine safety inspectorates elsewhere in Australia) is not effective in carrying out its functions.
Allegations include the following:
- the QMI does not have enough staff to adequately inspect mine sites;
- there is a high inspector turnover which is ‘crippling’ the QMI’s ability to conduct inspections;
- senior decision-makers are compromised as they must consider the economic impact of any safety-related action (a concern exacerbated by the location of the QMI within the DME);
- the QMI fails to conduct many unannounced inspections, and is generally ‘too close’ to the mining industry;
- the QMI fails to prosecute for even the most blatant breaches of mine safety; and
- the QMI does little more than respond to deaths in mines, and fails to devote resources to other concerns.
Inspectors have traditionally come from an engineering (or related technical) background, and this is still the case at the QMI. Some have been mine managers earlier in their careers. While this expertise is vital for a mines inspectorate, the increasing sophistication and complexity of the industry meant that the QMI had become increasingly challenged in handling some aspects of mine safety.
A QMI official explained to us:
The trouble [with the QMI] was [we were] sailing along and it wasn’t sustainable, because the age of the inspectorate was going up all the time. We weren’t recruiting new people … We weren’t bringing different skills that reflect the changing technology in the industry.
QMI mines inspectors are employed under an arrangement known as an ‘S70 contract’ and are generally paid at the Senior Executive Service 2 or 3 level, with a salary of at least $110,000.
We were advised that a QMI inspector could, without great difficulty, almost double his or her salary by moving to a position with a mine operator.
Clearly, in the face of such salaries on offer in the industry, the QMI has an uphill battle to attract and retain competent and qualified inspectors.
In an interview with my investigators, one QMI officer said:
We’ve always had difficulty getting people in certain areas … We’re now in a situation where the industry’s paying so much more because they can’t get people, and obviously the inspector will be able to get twice as much elsewhere.
We’ve also had people retiring, so our … resources have dropped dramatically … If we don’t have the people we can’t do the job we want to do and I don’t think there’s any doubt we’re falling behind in doing some of the things we should do
If you look at the applicants for the positions we’ve advertised, the pool is actually not … particularly good. When you consider what we’re paying you want people who are worth [the salary offered].
Another QMI officer explained:
There’s always been a gap between public servants and industry. There was a move made after the Moura [Disaster] to adjust that by putting mines inspectors on S70 contracts which allow them to be paid outside and … above the public awards …
The S70 contract has helped but the gap is widening because the industry is booming and there’s a shortage in the industry.
We’re constantly getting offers for our inspectors to go back into the industry.
And … the only advantage we’ve got is that most of the mines are in … isolated areas … That has major implications for people with families … and a lot of people choose not to live in outback Australia.
So what we can offer inspectors apart from a reasonable salary – certainly not one that’s competitive with the industry – is lifestyle issues which means that [they work] one week or two weeks away from home. They’re not doing 12 hour shifts unless it’s an emergency situation or a
major accident … They’re doing closer to a 40 or a 50 hour week.
They’re home 3 nights of the week and they’d be out once or twice a week [unlike those in
industry who might] be away for 7 or 8, 10 days or 14 days – a lot of people won’t
So that’s the only thing we can offer …
Inspectors have a wide variety of motivations for their work; however, the most common which were given to us included:
- a desire to contribute to a safer mining industry;
- an interest in broader aspects of the industry beyond production; and
- a desire to balance their work and private lives more effectively than they could in
the industry itself.
Some inspectors advised us it was unlikely that financial incentives beyond their existing salaries would encourage them to move to industry, given their preference for the better work/life balance available to them at the QMI.
Nevertheless, it was also clear that many staff do leave to take up higher salaries in industry. My investigators were told by most people they spoke to in the QMI that there are always a significant number of vacancies for inspectors and, at the time of writing this report, a major national campaign was underway to recruit more inspectorate staff.
This led to the amending of the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 2001 to remove the requirement to have a First Class Ticket of Competency.