Industrial strife brewing at Curragh

WESFARMERS’ Curragh mine is emerging as the next Bowen Basin industrial flashpoint, with employees voting for overtime bans and 24 hour stoppages as negotiations to secure a new enterprise agreement drag on to their fourth month.
Industrial strife brewing at Curragh Industrial strife brewing at Curragh Industrial strife brewing at Curragh Industrial strife brewing at Curragh Industrial strife brewing at Curragh

Construction at Wesfarmers' Curragh mine expanion in Queensland.

Lou Caruana

The company, which is trying to contain mining costs that have blown out by 35% over the last two years, is expected to seek orders from Fair Work Australia to stop workers from taking the industrial action.

Wesfarmers Resources managing director Stewart Butel reportedly told analysts the company’s negotiations with key mining unions centred on a few issues.

“The vote came up and they have a mandate to [take industrial action],” he is reported as saying the Australian Financial Review. “I have to say the [mood] on the site about that is mixed.”

Butel said Curragh was having encouraging second half FY2012 progress in an ongoing challenging environment as it seeks to expand its annual production to 8.5 million tonnes per annum.

He said tight labour market conditions and broader industry cost pressures continued, with Australia hard coking coal FOB cash costs increasing by 70% since 2007. High cost inflation for contractors, parts, consumables and power and the carbon tax impost in FY2013 would also add to cost pressure.

Cost control measures would focus on improving mining and processing practices, equipment utilisation and productivities, and procurement optimisation on key input costs.

Contractor usage and roles would be examined and a best practice benchmarking study underway, Butel said.

The Queensland floods caused a delay in the commissioning of Curragh’s second coal handling and preparation plant, which now seems likely to come on stream by the end of the June quarter.

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