An inside look at BMA

IN October this year BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) CEO John Smith toured the company’s sites, answering questions from employees and community members. With over 1000 people attending the sessions, a number of recurring issues were raised and today International Longwall News has a look at Smith’s responses.

Staff Reporter

Q. I heard the resource boom is about to burst, how will this impact BMA?

John: The long term outlook for our business is strong, but we will still be affected by the ups and downs of business cycles. The market has again become more balanced and competitive, so now more than ever before we need to be the supplier of choice for our customers.

Q. Why have costs risen so quickly?

John:It’s no secret that industry costs are skyrocketing, impacting heavily on the cost of our expansion activities.

We are competing with a worldwide boom in resource development. In addition to wages, fuel, electricity and explosives cost increases, our stripping costs are also rising. We will continue to grow, but it will not be development at any cost.

Q. If safety is our top priority, then why has our safety performance deteriorated?

John: I recognise our safety performance during 2005/06 was not good enough, and we have had a disappointing start to the current year. Zero harm is our goal and we must maintain our focus on safety and apply safe practices to all aspects of our work to achieve this. While safety is BMA’s duty of care, it is just as much your responsibility to carry out your work in a safe manner, and watch out for your mates.

Q: What is being done about insufficient housing in Moranbah and other communities?

John: I understand that housing and associated infrastructure in our communities is a frustrating issue. We are working as quickly as we can to ensure adequate accommodation is available for all employees and their families.

We have committed $210 million over three years to achieving this goal. In the last 2 years, BMA has delivered 280 new houses, 900 single person accommodation rooms and 220 serviced blocks of land, and more are coming.

Q. How can we be sure that there will be enough water supplied to our towns?

John: Like most areas of Queensland, we need to effectively manage our water resources, particularly in view of the drought conditions. Ensuring the tight management of water at mines and towns is important, and it’s up to each of us to be water conscious.

To ensure adequate supplies are available, BMA has increased pumping capacity in the Bingegang pipeline from the Mackenzie River, and we have a significant investment in the $270M Burdekin Falls pipeline, which is scheduled to reach full practical completion by July 2007.

Q. How can we improve safety on the roads?

John: With more vehicles travelling along Central Queensland roads, we need to manage the situation by being aware of the prevailing conditions and adjusting our driving behaviour accordingly. Along with other mining companies, BMA sponsors and supports road safety and fatigue management programs, such as the Mining Industry Road Safety Alliance, throughout the region.

Q. How will the Federal Government’s new Work Choices legislation affect us?

John: The Work Choices Act has been operating since March this year, and individual employees won’t have noticed any change. Our workforce is covered by enterprise agreements, and the main one has about eight months to run.

We will be talking with the unions soon about renegotiating our EA next year. In the meantime, we will be looking at other options that the new legislation provides, including AWAs. Whatever path we decide to take, our ultimate goal is to stay competitive - this translates into a successful BMA, and success means job security.

Q&A courtesy BMAG November/December