Australian Mining looks at the top five stories that had you reading this week.
Nothing gets the readers like a mining accident story that turns out ok in the end. In this incident a tired bulldozer driver managed to not only get the plant equipment bogged down, but actually swallowed by the coal stockpile as he ran over a feeder hole.
A story that highlights just how tough the industry is and the effect it will have if you aren’t prepared. In the wake of the ongoing FIFO inquiry, it showed there is a worryingly high attrition rate in first year miners, with about a fifth of them leaving the industry.
The WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union say there is evidence to suggest the rate is even worse.
The CFMEU told News Limited a "prison camp" culture existed at many sites with employers imposing demanding rules and regulations on workers.
According to the Maritime Union of Australia spokesperson Doug Heath said some workers on Chevron’s Gorgon Project in WA had a roster of 26 days on and nine days off. He said a rise in urine tests by miners had also lead to a rise in hard drug use.
Hard work, hard living, and apparently hard drugs.
As Kinetic Group CEO Derek Hunter told us earlier this year – "People have such high expectations, of earning six figure salaries, of easy work, but they don’t understand the realities that come with a job in mining, the stress, and how a fly in fly out lifestyle affects them and their family.
"They have a disconnect with the reality of the industry."
A story that was essentially a beat up of the FIFO industry which also came off the back of the inquiry.
Sexually transmitted infections, relationship breakdowns, and parenting difficulties are the most common issues for doctors treating fly-in fly-out workers, according to the Australian Medical Association of WA.
However despite this, not all FIFO miners are riddled with diseases and mental problems, and in Queensland recent studies have shown that FIFO families are actually more stable than the State average.
Dr Karin Stokes from the Centre of Environmental Management says while sacrificing family time for extra cash most mining workers "still remain happy" in their relationships.
Stokes said she had interviewed eight couples from Central Queensland mines and hoped to complete 30 in total.
She said early indications showed workers were coping balancing the lifestyle challenges of mining.
"These people are quite happy with their relationship, not just the money," she said.
"There is a perception out there that miners will quit after two years because they can’t cope with the work or it impacts on their social life."
"So far I have not spoken to anyone who has been in the industry for less than four years and is not happy."
So some good news and a little bit of balance to the perception of FIFO miners and the lifestyle.
The leading issue for the past fortnight has unsurprisingly been the repercussions of BMA’s closure of the Norwich Park coal mine.
Mining unions have told BHP it must forfeit its lease toNorwich 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."
Strong words from the unions.
This story brought out a number of conspiracies about BHP’s real motives in the Norwich Park closure.
BHP was forced to deny the closure was a cynical move to oust union member mines from Norwich Park after an online ad was found for jobs at the mine for two year positions.
However, BHP have said that the ad was an old one that went up before the announcement as actually made, and was hosted by an agency, stating that it was simply a misunderstanding.
Dumble has since said that there was also no ‘Dubai option’ for Norwich Park, referring CFMEU district president Steve Smyth’s accusations of the miner ‘doing a Dubai’, referring to the Patrick lockout in the 1990s, where plans were made to replace workers with contractors trained in Dubai.