The miners union has accused Rio Tinto of having an outdated approach to mine safety.
At the mining giant’s annual general meeting in Perth last week, Construction Forestry and Energy Union’s Robin Williams said a significant number of accidents were not reported in the annual report.
She said Rio reported injury frequency rates for things like lost time and restricted work days, but no details were provided about other incidents.
“It is a bit of sleight of hand on behalf of the mining companies,” he said.
“Rio is telling shareholders one thing and coalminers another.
“In their annual report they are telling shareholders they want to achieve a goal of zero harm, yet what we see at mine sites is starkly different.”
Williams said an increase in mine accidents had been seen at the Bengalla mine in Muswellbrook in recent months, as well as the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine in nearby Singleton.
Williams said a change is necessary at the company, as incidents continue to be underreported.
“A culture of fear is permeating through Rio Tinto mines, which puts at risk the safety of mine workers,” Mr Williams said.
“An adversarial approach to mine safety, where bosses threaten workers with disciplinary action is outdated and should have no place in modern Australian mining.
“If Rio Tinto is genuinely interested in mine safety, they should listen to the workers and have a culture of open reporting.”
Following the general meeting in Western Australia, Rio’s chief executive Tom Albanese answered questions about safety at Hunter Valley mines, the Muswellbrook Chronicle reports.
“We take safety seriously and it is our first and absolute priority,” Albanese said.
“I actually want to thank the employees and management in the Hunter Valley for some for the biggest gains in safety we’ve had in Rio Tinto in the last 10 years.
“From one of the least safe parts of Rio Tinto it has become one of the safest parts of Rio Tinto.
“Our overall safety statistics in the Hunter Valley and Mount Thorley Warkworth are better than Rio Tinto as a whole, and that’s up to each employee.
“The business is focused on safety and they have been delivering improvements in safety in the Hunter Valley, but we can never stop.”
Williams told the meeting he did not want an environment where workers did not feel comfortable speaking up because they feared facing disciplinary procedures.
“If there is an accident or incident at a mine site, we want a proper investigation to make sure that it doesn’t happen again, not a scapegoat who is disciplined for their actions,” he said.
“Mining is a tough industry and we all work together to make it safe.”
According to the Chronicle, there was a representative from each Upper Hunter mine owned by Rio Tinto – Bengalla, Mount Thorley Warkworth and Hunter Valley Operations – at the company’s meeting in Perth.
“The business is focused on safety and they have been delivering improvements in safety in the Hunter Valley, but we can never stop,” Williams said.
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