Aussie firms to impart coal safety know-how to China

AUSTRALIA and China yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding backed by Australia’s coal majors to exchange information on regulation, technology and equipment for coal mine safety.

Angie Tomlinson

The MoU will be implemented by a new Coal Mine Safety Taskforce – with Australian members of the working group including Xstrata Coal, Anglo Coal, Centennial Coal, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton, as well as the federal, NSW and Queensland governments, the NSW Minerals Council, Queensland Resources Council and the Minerals Council of Australia.

“Achieving a safe workplace is a constant challenge requiring the design of appropriate work practices, the training of employees, and promoting an attitude and culture of safety ahead of any consideration of productivity. In this, Australia is well placed to contribute to an exchange of information to assist the Chinese industry in its drive to significantly reduce fatalities and injuries in the Chinese coal industry,” MCA chief executive Mitchell Hooke said.

A key part of the agreement will be implementing a risk management framework for coal mine operations in China. This will be no easy task for the country given that 24,000 of China’s 28,000 coal mines are small operators and account for 70% of the 6000 fatalities in more than 3300 incidents.

The MoU is also expected to encourage trade in mining technology and expertise specific to safety and health in coal mining operations.

Many Australian companies are already active in China promoting a range of technologies, particularly gas drainage prior to mining. And this exchange is not all one-way traffic. Australia also has much to learn from China, particularly in the safe extraction of thick coal seams, MCA said.

As a first step to the agreement, Australia is planning to host a bi-lateral workshop in June 2006 to identify priorities for cooperation and develop a program for future work.