Glencore Xstrata’s recent announcement that 450 workers at its Newland and Oaky Creek coal mines in the Bowen Basin would be retrenched arrived only days after US-based Peabody energy culled 450 contractors from 11 coal mines, six of which are situated west of Mackay and Rockhampton.
These two major job culls were accompanied by a swathe of smaller cuts, including the loss of 185 jobs by contractor Downer at Goonyella Riverside, owned by BHP Billiton Mitsubishi, and and the shedding of 200 workers by mining engineering firm Hasting Deering, which has workshops in Mackay and Rockhampton.
Earlier in June, Anglo American announced the imminent closure of the Aquila underground mine, which impacted 80 workers.
The wave of retrenchments has lifted job losses in the Queensland mining sector to over 7,000 in just the past 18 month, while data from the Minerals Council of Australia indicates that more than 24,000 mining jobs have been shed nation-wide since May 2012.
Mining companies have imputed the onerous job losses to an adverse business environment, with operating costs surging in Australia, the exchange rate until just recently riding an unprecedented high, and commodities prices dwindling on easing demand from key global export market China.
The Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) has pointed the finger of opprobrium at mining companies themselves, however, following a slew of loss-making decision by departing CEOs.
These include a $2.8 billion write-down on BHP Billiton’s overpriced shale gas assets in North America, and Rio Tinto’s write-off of $13 billion in aluminum assets and coal deals in Mozambique.
Steve Pierce, vice president of CFMEU’s mining and energy division, said workers were bearing the brunt of the billion-dollar blunders of mining executives.
“In the past 12 months we have seen failed takeovers, we have seen attempted buy-outs of businesses that have been economic disasters and we have seen mergers that failed and cost the companies billions of dollars,” he said.