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Unions dig dirt on Norwich Park

Norwich Park Mine was still a hub of activity on Wednesday night, just two days before its closure.
Norwich Park Mine was still a hub of activity on Wednesday night, just two days before its closure.

CLAIMS BMA is intent on deunionising the Norwich Park pit were bolstered yesterday with the State Government claiming it knew of plans the mine would re-open once the coal market strengthened.

Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said on the record he had been in "consultation" with the mining giant and he took it "on face value" the mine had endured an extended period of low production, resulting in the decision to mothball the site from tonight.

But barely eight hours later, Mr Cripps justified his communication with the company.

"In my position as Mines Minister, the company has been regularly updating me on the future for the site and most critically, the future for workers and the local community of Dysart," Mr Cripps said.

"They have explained their decision was based upon a number of external factors that have led to the mine being unviable including flooding, lower coal prices and high costs.

"They have said their plans at the moment are to mothball the Norwich Park site."

Mr Cripps refused to be drawn in to the industrial dispute between BMA and the Single Bargaining Unit, comprising the AMWU, ETU and CFMEU, citing the ongoing battle was a "matter for the company and their employees".

The CFMEU has long held the view the cessation of the Norwich Park pit was a tactical ploy to remove union involvement in its 900-strong workers.

District president Stephen Smyth said he wasn't surprised at Mr Cripps' comments or the reaction from the State Government.

"They (the State Government) will always support those that support them," Mr Smyth said.

"It's interesting to note (the CFMEU) has written to the Premier (Campbell Newman) on two occasions regarding the Norwich Park lease to be freed up and given to someone else that will use it.

"It's disappointing he hasn't commented back."

Mr Smyth said the mine's lack of profitability was "nonsense" and the cessation an attempt to reintroduce a non-union affiliated workforce.

He said the Fair Work Australia ruling which found BMA had failed to communicate with the unions in good faith was a victory for the SBU, which represents more than 3500 workers across the Bowen Basin.

The FWA ruling combined with Norwich Park's cessation had bolstered the SBU's resolve.

"It has made us even more determined to push ahead with the dispute," Mr Smyth said.

BMA yesterday denied it had any plans to reopen the Dysart mine anytime soon.

"Norwich Park Mine will cease production indefinitely from May 11," a spokeswoman said in a statement.

"Cessation of production will stem further losses and allow key operating areas to be fully reviewed and hopefully significantly reset to provide an effective basis for the mine.

"Recommencement of production is subject to establishing a viable basis for the medium and longer term operation of the mine. No date is able to be provided at this stage."


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