Moura memorial snubbed by mining companies

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Major mining companies have refused to contribute funds to a proposed miners’ memorial to fallen workers in the Moura area, drawing criticism from the local community.

The Moura Miners’ Memorial was proposed, with support from the local council, to commemorate around 50 coal miners who were killed in the line of duty, including those lost in three major coal mine disasters that occurred in the past 40 years.

In 1975, 13 men were killed in an underground explosion at the Kianga No. 1 Mine (operated by Thiess Peabody Mitsui); In 1986 12 men were killed in an underground explosion at the Moura No. 4 Mine (operated by Theiss Dampier Mitsui); and in 1994 11 men were killed at the Moura No.2 Mine (operated by BHP).

The project is estimated to cost $532,193, and has so far received funding from unions and individuals with a budget shortfall of $318,516.

So far the only companies to have pledged any funds towards the memorial are Anglo American and Mitsui, who have jointly pledged $10,000 contingent on the project going ahead before the end of 2016.

Central Telegraph reported that the Moura Community Progress group has received $90,000 from the AMWU Queensland Coal Shop Stewards, $5000 from the Moura branch of the ETU and $1843.35 in individual donations, while the CFMEU Mine Workers’ Trust and state board of the ETU have each pledged $50,000.

AMWU members directly contributed $81,000 of the largest contribution, while the further $9,000 was offered by the state branch.

Peabody and Thiess have each claimed they do not have money in their 2015 budgets to allocate to the project, while BHP has not offered any contribution on the grounds it no longer operates in the area.

Moura Community Progress treasurer Cherie Millan said a BHP representative told the group to apply for funding through BHP's sustainable communities grants process.

"We did that, and then they told us we weren't eligible because those grants are meant for the communities where they operate, and they no longer operate here," she said.

Australian Mining has contacted BHP to find out if the company plans to consider funding the memorial on other grounds.

AMWU spokesperson John Hempseed said some locals were disgusted at the reluctance of companies to fund the memorial.

"They were the owners of these mines at the times of the disasters, and the real thing is, they made their fortunes here," he said.

Moura Community Progress group member Charlie Seeney, who was employed at Kianga at the time of the disaster, said donations made to the memorial were being made by locals who knew people affected by the disasters.

"The people around here who are shelling out for this memorial aren't big business, they're local people who know the others that were affected,” he said.

"The amount of money we're talking about is really not a lot of money for a coal company."

The three mine disasters were the subject of a documentary film entitled Blood on the Coal, which was released in 2015.