Push to keep mining workers in jobs



Resource giants have held a high-level telephone hook-up with the Federal Government amid fears an industry shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis will smash the already fragile national economy.

Australian mining operations particularly have already begun to close down and future projects mothballed, not least of all as workers struggle to get to sites due to the restricted aviation industry, border closures and overseas national lockdowns and general COVID-19 fears.

China is only now looking at reigniting its production but is some distance away from restoring capacity for resource demands following its shutdown.

The government fears another Global Financial Crisis (GFC) response from the sector when in the first six months of 2009 as a financial crisis was threatening the mining industry shed 15 per cent of its workforce and slashed output and investment.

Australian mining operations have already begun to close down.
Australian mining operations have already begun to close down.

It did rebound quickly but so too did the general outlook, analysts say the outlook for coronavirus in the short-term is not.

Resource Minister Keith Pitt called a "virtual roundtable" teleconference with the giants including Rio Tinto, Santos, Shell, Newcrest and BHP to assure them all that could be done should be done to keep going.

He said it was important to ensure a strong future to the industry so critical to Australia's economy. He said the mining industry was critical to Australia's recovery once the global pandemic had past.

Mining across the globe is contracting as workers face a national lockdown. Picture: Supplied
Mining across the globe is contracting as workers face a national lockdown. Picture: Supplied

"It's critical that resources operations continue and new projects commence as planned wherever possible and we are working with resources companies to ensure they can get workers in and out of regional and remote areas in accordance with health and safety requirements, Mr Pitt said.

A COAG-style meeting was held with State resource ministers and industry with a set of protocols for passage of employees to be agreed to by the national "war" Cabinet.

Rio Tinto and other companies have reported production slowdowns in offshore projects, which can't be managed by the Australian government, directly related to COVID-19.



Many operations in Peru have been hardest hit with 75 per cent of workers from 60 different sites walking off the job on a government-ordered lockdown. Mining firm Lynas has shut down its Malaysian operations with Alta Zinc closing its productions in northern Italy.

The Minerals Council of Australia, which was also part of discussions, said it was essential flight, rail and port networks continued to supply fuel and critical inputs.

"The sudden shift by different governments in recent days to place restrictions on movement of people across borders prompted the MCA to accelerate work on the national approach to the safe and efficient passage of essential workers and supplies for mining operations," MCA chief executive officer Tania Constable said.


Originally published as Push to keep mining workers in jobs