Norwich Park – “Use it or lose it” CFMEU tells BHP

Mining unions have told BHP it must forfeit its lease to Norwich Park if it does not intend to mine it.

It comes after BHP Billiton, which runs the joint venture BMA mines with Mitsubishi, announced it will ‘bank’ the mine to stop other operators moving in.

CFMEU general secretary Andrew Vickers said BHP had leased the mine from the Queensland people, and once it stopped working, the company should forfeit its right to the mine.

"If BHP doesn’t think Norwich Park is worth the effort it should do the decent thing and hand back its lease to the State Government and allow an operator with less focus on super profits to have a go," Vickers said.

"This is export quality coking coal that belongs to all Queenslanders; it’s time for BHP to use it or lose it.

"By ‘banking’ Norwich Park – and stopping another operator offering a lifeline to the residents of Dysart – BHP shows the company is in the Bowen Basin for a good time, not a long time."

In support of this, the CFMEU has also sent a letter to the newly elected QLD premier Campbell Newman, calling on him to send the message to other coal miners.

The letter from CFMEU QLD district president Steve Smyth he states that "as you (Newman) are on the record stating, these resources belong to the state. They are leased to companies for the express purpose of mining them.

"Failure to do so should result in the lease being forfeited and put out to public tender.

"Simply allowing a mining company to mothball a valuable lease without any consequences for its actions sets a dangerous precedent for other companies."

Vickers went on to say that the announcement by BMA last week that it will close Norwich Park is evidence the miner did not consider the communities in its operations.

Many in the community have expressed fear over the closure, and what it may mean for businesses in the nearby town of Dysart.

Vickers asked what the cost of the miner was to Central Queensland, saying "the union fears the closure of Norwich Park will devastate the township of Dysart".

He went on to add that "BHP has form for abandoning mines other companies have since returned to operation, including the Cook and Moura collieries in Queensland and operations near Newcastle.

However, many have levelled the blame for the mine’s closure at the unions and the long running industrial action which has crippled BMA mines right across the Bowen Basin.

While BMA chief Stephen Dumble said the closure was due to its low quality coal and unprofitability rather than strike action, many have commented to Australian Mining that the industrial action played a larger part.

Wade Smith stated: "What’s Dumble supposed to say? – "Thanks to the union’s unreasonable demands and underperformance, we’ve been forced to close the mine."?!  That would make a lot of sense, seeing that the unions are trying to force BMA to give in to more unreasonable demands – this after having cost BMA over $700 Million in lost production in the current financial year!  Yeah, the unions have nothing to do with the decision."

Andrew Smith added: "well done to the union, lost jobs for your members".

BMA is currently working towards moving its permanent workforce to its other nearby mines such as Saraji.

On Wednesday last week, BMA also gave notice to Golding Contractors at its Blackwater coal mine, and are reportedly moving Downer contractors from Norwich Park to Blackwater.

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