MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta: another "mishap", more workers up in arms

Published by MAC on 2009-09-29

Just a month before a massive chimney collapse killed at least 45 workers at Vedanta's Korba power plant in Orissa, another "mishap" struck the company's Mt Lyell copper mine in Tasmania, Australia.

Many tonnes of mud swept into the Australian mine's underground workings, following heavy rains - an uncanny precursor to what occurred at the company's operations in India.

Although no casualties were recorded at the Tasmania operations, the mudslide has left 180 workers and their dependents stranded, after paid leave expired.

On September 28 2009 the Mt Lyell mineworkers union gave Vedanta a forty-eight hour ultimatum to pay them.

For details of Vedanta's Indian disaster, see:

Mt Lyell mine demand

HELEN KEMPTON, Tasmania News

28 September 2009

MT Lyell mine operator Vedanta has been given an ultimatum over action on unpaid workers.

The global mining company has been given two days to respond to calls from the State
Government to pay workers while a mudslide is cleared from its Mt Lyell Copper Mine in Queenstown. Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said UK-based Vedanta had until Wednesday to agree to pay the miners who have been put off work their normal wages until the mine reopens.

If not, the AWU will mount a global campaign to put pressure on the company to do the right thing . It is now five weeks since a month of heavy rain caused mud to flow into the mine's underground workings and the company has given no indication of when operations might return to normal.

"This is a massive multi-national company which is building the world's biggest copper smelter in India. The $1.5 million a month wage bill at Queenstown would not even be noticed," Mr Howes said.

"But the 180 or so miners who are now out of paid leave and are turning to welfare to feed their families will certainly notice the gesture."

Mr Howes met Premier David Bartlett, Treasurer Michael Aird, Resources Minister David Llewellyn and West Coast mayor Darryl Gerrity in Hobart this morning.

"The Premier said he would write to the company today and Mr Llewellyn will be on the phone to London. A bit of pressure is being applied but if there is no response the screws will be tightened," Mr Howes said.

Pay ultimatum from mining union

ABC News

29 September 2009

The union wants the Government to increase mining royalties to pay the Queenstown workers.

The union representing Tasmania's Mount Lyell miners has set a 48-hour deadline for the owners to pay them.

About 180 miners are on indefinite leave, after a mudslide stopped production at the west coast copper mine five weeks ago.

The Australian Workers Union's Paul Howes says the mine's weekly wage bill is $1.5 million but the owner, Vedanta, is refusing to pay.

"If they don't do the right thing within the next two days, then we'll be calling on the State Government here to take more drastic action," he said.

That includes the prospect of increasing mining royalties.

The Premier, David Bartlett, wrote to the company yesterday, but will not speculate about going further.

The mine's General Manager, Scott Clyde, says more than 100 staff are still working at the mine but there are no more jobs for underground or contract workers.

Royalties dismissed

The Tasmanian Minerals Council has dismissed suggestions the State Government increase mining royalties to help pay workers.

The Mineral Council's executive director Terry Long has told ABC Local Radio royalties were set by a regulatory formula, and if they were increased it would send a message that the government expects workers to be paid, even if there was no work.

"No there's no case to do it because they apply across all mines and they're set by a formula that's entrenched in regulation that's been approved by both houses of parliaments," he said.

"If the Tasmanian Government is so concerned about the employees of Barminco then they themselves could offer some assistance."

The company says the mine should resume production in the next month.


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