JOBS: Coal price collapse threatens industry. Picture: Minerals Council of Australia
JOBS: Coal price collapse threatens industry. Picture: Minerals Council of Australia

Mines shed hundreds of jobs amid coal price collapse

AT LEAST 200 contract jobs have been slashed across several Central Queensland mine sites amid a collapse in thermal and coking coal prices.

Peabody's Coppabella Mine has cut 50 contract positions and Middlemount Coal has temporarily suspended 20 contract positions at its Bowen Basin mine.

It is understood a further 20 contract roles have been slashed at Curragh Mine; however, despite talk on social media about the rumoured job losses, Thiess was unable to comment on the matter.

It comes after Fitzroy Australia Resources announced on Tuesday that 160 contract positions at Carborough Downs mine had been cut.

A spokesman for Fitzroy said the miner had been forced to restructure due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A Peabody spokeswoman said it was taking proactive steps at its Coppabella Mine to protect the long-term sustainability of the operation.

"Like many other Australian mining operators, Peabody has been affected by incredibly challenging global economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and as a result we are aligning our production levels and workforce needs with current coal demand," she said.

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A Middlemount Coal spokesman said "global economic shutdowns driven by COVID-19" had forced the company to slow production at Middlemount Mine.

"The decision will see production from one of Middlemount's six excavator fleets temporarily suspended affecting 20 contract positions out of a workforce of approximately 400," the spokesman said.

"We have fully and openly communicated our decision and the reasons for it to our team and thank them for their understanding and ongoing commitment to our operations."

All direct employees of Middlemount Coal have been retained and affected contractors were given access to an employee assistance program, he said.

JP Morgan analyst Lyndon Fagan estimated demand for seaborne thermal coal would drop by six per cent, or about 60 million tonnes this year due to the economic fallout of the pandemic.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said the situation highlighted the need to change the workforce model.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth. Picture: Daryl Wright
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland district president Stephen Smyth. Picture: Daryl Wright

"We are hearing reports of labour hire workers being stood down due to lower demand and prices for coal. We are urging employers to keep workers on and not simply cut people loose at the first sign of a slowdown," Mr Smyth said.

"Widespread casualisation and contracting out means labour hire workers are especially vulnerable and many people have no entitlements to fall back on.

"Many labour hire workers are long-term, loyal employees and they shouldn't be treated as disposable."

He urged any union members affected by the job cuts to reach out to the CFMEU for support.

Concern for Mackay METS businesses

Resource Industry Network general manager Adrienne Rourke said she was anticipating flow-on effects for mining equipment, technology and service companies in the region.

Ms Rourke said it was too soon to tell, however, how much of an impact falling coal prices would have on the sector.

"It is not doom and gloom but we need to be cautious at the moment and support each other," she said.

"We are hoping this is a short-term lag that we're seeing in the market and that we will see an improvement as the international market starts to get back online and we get back to some normality."

Resource Industry Network general manager Adrienne Rourke. Picture: Tony Martin
Resource Industry Network general manager Adrienne Rourke. Picture: Tony Martin

Her advice for those concerned was to reach out to their industry groups and financial advisers for assistance and check eligibility for the Jobkeeper payment.

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it was important to note there had been widespread job losses across many industries in Australia.

"The resources sector is holding up well despite the fall in commodity prices and the limitations on operations due to the necessary COVID-19 restrictions," Mr Macfarlane said.

"We are doing our part to keep Queenslanders working and earning, whether on a mine site or supplying to our companies."

He said there were currently 318 vacancies in mining, resources and energy in the Mackay & Coalfields regions on SEEK.



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