Australia: Mining bosses face jail over safetyPublished by MAC on 2013-03-05
Source: Perth Now (2013-02-23)
Mining bosses face jail over safety
23 February 2013
MINING bosses and managers face jail if a worker dies on their mine site or oil rig, under options being investigated by the WA Government.
It is also considering fines linked to how much profit companies make. That means mining giants such as BHP, Rio Tinto and Hancock Prospecting face far greater penalties for any safety failures or environmental pollution.
And resource companies could be put on a demerit point system where they face "very serious sanctions like forfeiture or suspension of operations" if they run out of points.
The Department of Mines and Petroleum will investigate the measures as part of a review of the state's mining legislation and penalties.
It comes after a series of articles in The Sunday Times exposing the dark side of WA's mining boom, which found major safety breaches by companies, environmental pollution and groundwater contamination, and accusations the state's mines and environment watchdogs were not holding companies to account.
Last night, the families of workers killed on mine sites welcomed the review and said they hoped for new laws so company officials could be jailed for failing their workers and for bigger fines to act as more of a deterrent.
The discussion paper will look at whether company bosses, mine managers and supervisors should be charged with corporate manslaughter and held criminally responsible when a worker dies.
It will also examine whether directors should automatically be held liable for environmental disasters such as oil spills.
Department enforcement measures include warnings, fines, stop-work orders, licence amendments or prosecutions.
Company bosses or managers cannot be jailed for offences under the Mining Act, though they can be jailed for the most severe breaches of the Dangerous Goods Safety Act.
Department deputy director-general Michelle Andrews said WA's penalties would be compared with other jurisdictions in Australia and overseas, and different types of enforcement would be scrutinised.
It comes after figures revealed safety inspectors were handing out 140 "prohibition notices" forcing companies to shut down their mines or equipment when there is imminent danger to workers every year.
"The department and industry must continue to remain vigilant," Ms Andrews said. "That's why we are examining our penalties, despite the fact that 2012 saw the WA mining industry experience its first fatality-free year on record."
Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Reg Howard-Smith said the "vast majority" of resource projects met compliance conditions but he admitted there "may be lessons we can learn from other jurisdictions".
Mines and Petroleum Minister Norman Moore said the review would help to "make any necessary changes required to ensure WA has international best practice standards to help regulate industry compliance".
The report is due mid-year and will go for public and industry comment.