Austar worker funeral held on Workers Memorial Day

Workers and their families around Australia and the world today, many of whom are involved with the mining industry, have stopped to observe Workers’ memorial day and honour those who have died in the course of their work duties.

The most recent tragedy in the Australian mining industry occurred less than two weeks ago, when workers Phillip Grant and Jamie Mitchell were killed at the Austar Mine near Paxton.

The funeral for Phillip Grant was held today in Bathurst, attended by family, friends and co-workers, as well as representatives from the CFMEU, Yancoal and the Austar mine.

CFMEU Northern Mining and NSW Energy District president Peter Jordan, who attended the funeral, extended the condolences of the CFMEU.

 “Our thoughts and prayers are with Phillip’s family as they lay him to rest today,” he said.

“We will support them in whatever way we can as they deal with their terrible loss.

 “Phillip will never be forgotten by the union or in the Hunter mining community.”

Yancoal Australia CEO Reinhold Schmidt said that “the company’s thoughts are with Phillip’s family and friends at this difficult time”.

“We are continuing to offer support to the family and to our employees and contractors, many of whom travelled from the Hunter Valley to attend the funeral in Bathurst today,” Schmidt said.

The investigation by the Mine Safety Office of the NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services (DTIRIS) to determine into the cause of the incident at the Austar Coal Mine on 16 April 2014 is ongoing.

The incident site remains under the control of the investigators, and DTIRIS has not indicated when the investigation is likely to be concluded.

The funeral of fallen Austar mine worker Jamie Mitchell will be held this Thursday at St. Patrick's of Nulkaba in Sydney.

Coal Services NSW today released a statement about the disease ‘black lung’, a respiratory condition that used to kill many coal miners in Australia, but has not done so for decades.

A spokesperson for Coal Services said that they would not make a statement about the miners killed in NSW less than two weeks ago.

Coal Services CEO Lucy Flemming said  that Coal Services has helped to provide protection against a range of workplace health and safety hazards, and by working together with industry has “seen black lung eliminated and mine safety performance reach a level that is best in the world”.

“10 years ago, underground miners had a 1-in-3 chance of sustaining an injury,” she said.

“Today we have seen a 75 per cent improvement in that number with less than 7-in-100 underground workers sustaining an industry [sic].”

Paul Healey, general manager for Mines Rescue and Regulation & Compliance, and chairman of the Standing Dust Committee attributed the elimination of black lung, or coal miners’ pneumoconiosis, to the creation of the independent Joint Coal Board in 1947, when black lung affected 16 per cent of coal miners in New South Wales.

Coal Services is tasked with executing government orders to work with coal mining companies on dust mitigation and control techniques, and health surveillance.

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