$1m support fund of injured and dead mine worker families closed

The Australian Workers Union (AWU) has closed the $1 million support fund created to support families of injured and dead mine workers, believing its purpose ‘no longer exists’.

The Fatal Accident and Death Fund started in Boulder Western Australia in 1946 from weekly contributions made by WA Goldfields mine workers to provide funds to families of their colleagues either killed or injured while working.

The AWU has closed the fund and in March voted to divide the last $1.2 million between remaining contributors at a meeting, in a report by the ABC.

Despite the deaths of more than 50 workers at WA mines in the last 15 years, the union believes the fund is no longer needed.

The minutes of the meeting stated, “The original purpose of the Fund, to benefit the families of persons injured or dying whilst engaged in the mining industry, substantially no longer exist.”

The 66 remaining fund members, also members of the AWU, are believed to be former and current mine workers.

They will each receive a $17,039.55 pay out.

The union said the remaining contributors requested the closure of the fund due to falling membership and contributions.

A Kalgoorlie based committee took over management of the fund, with the union acting as a trustee, after a time of controversy for the fund, with an alleged $80,000 of contributions spent on office space in the 1980s and $145,000 for two holiday units in Kalbarri in 1995.

The committee ceased the admission of new members after October 28, 2000.

Although the fund had a final balance of just over $1.1 million, the union said it could not afford to pay more than one claim each year.

As payouts each cost approximately $16,000, more than one claim would cut into the fund’s capital and further reduce the remaining benefits for members.

Mike Zoetbrood, AWU state secretary, said, “The amount of payout was going to keep reducing.”

“The point was to preserve the value of remaining members, wind it up and, after costs, distribute it to the 66 surviving members.”

One former mine worker believes the fund should not have closed.

Darby Renton was one of the hundreds of workers made redundant after Alan Bond purchased a number of mines to establish the Kalgoorlie-Boulder superpit, leaving the AWU and the fund. He said that many of his former workmates still needed support.

“I believe the AWU lost faith in the Goldfields region,” he said.

“We were sort of discarded, like a piece of waste paper.”

The decision to close the fund comes as WA records the first mine fatality of 2016 following the with death of 32 year old Lee Buzzard last week during maintenance activities on a drill in Rio Tinto’s Channar pit.

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