Opinion: Views of mineworkers should be respected

December 05, 2013

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald

NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee

THE workers at Coal and Allied’s Mount Thorley Warkworth mine and hundreds of others across the Hunter have sent a clear message – protect our jobs.

Of the submissions made to the Department of Planning for the Mount Thorley-Warkworth mine modification, more than 900 were positive and supportive.

Submissions lodged in favour of the extension outnumbered those against by a margin of six to one. 

It’s hard to imagine a stronger message of local support for the Warkworth mine, the jobs it provides and the economic stability it delivers to the local region.

What makes these submissions even more significant is that hundreds came from everyday workers.  People from different backgrounds, different families, with different opinions and different political views.

However, they all have at least two things in common – they are part of their community and they want to work.  This is why the workers of Warkworth have stood up and made their voices heard.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge was quick to dismiss the hundreds of submissions lodged by workers at the Warkworth mine. Mr Shoebridge suggested that mining employees were being ‘‘used’’ on the company’s behalf to lobby in favour of the project.

It’s hard to understand how Mr Shoebridge could suggest that employees have to be coerced into standing up for their own jobs. These are working people, standing up to be heard on an important decision that affects their own jobs.

And it’s not the first time. Mining workers, their families and supporters are becoming more willing to make their voices heard to protect their jobs.

Earlier this year, a petition was tabled in the NSW Parliament signed by 1544 people including mining workers and others, calling upon the NSW government to act to save the jobs at the Mount Thorley Warkworth mine.

A similar petition was  signed and tabled in Parliament by 665 people, including workers from Anglo American’s Drayton mine located outside Muswellbrook.

Real people standing up for their jobs.  And despite what David Shoebridge thinks, these workers have the support of the wider community.

In July, ReachTel surveyed 514 residents across the Muswellbrook and Singleton local government areas and found support for mining at 78per cent with opposition at 11per cent.
Of those surveyed, 89per cent said mining was important to a strong economic future for their local community, compared to just 6per cent who believed it was not important; and 77per cent said jobs should receive the ‘‘highest’’ or ‘‘high’’ priority when assessed in relation to impacts on the environment and local communities, including 55per cent who believed jobs should be the ‘‘highest’’ priority.

Nearly 60per cent of survey respondents in the Singleton local government area supported the Warkworth extension compared to 30per cent opposed.

Mining workers and their families have every right to raise their voices to protect their  jobs. These views should be respected, not dismissed.

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