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Submissions on mining safety released

30 October 2008 Media Statement

Submissions on mining safety released

Labour Minister Trevor Mallard today released a report summarising public feedback on the discussion paper Improving health and safety hazard management in the underground mining industry.

"Underground mining is a very small sector in New Zealand, with only a handful of operators and around 300-350 total employees, expected to rise to about 450 over the next six months to a year. It is however a high risk industry where lack of attention to safety can have potentially catastrophic consequences," Trevor Mallard said.

"The government will use the feedback gained from this consultation to develop further measures to improve health and safety hazard management systems in the underground mining industry, with more industry consultation planned before final decisions are taken. I expect the Department of Labour will report back on this next phase by June next year."

West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O'Connor said it was important that any safety issues were addressed, and that the views of those who worked in mining were listened to.

"I am pleased that the next step is to consult with the industry to further strengthen health and safety management systems and employee participation in those systems," Mr O'Connor said.

The public consultation process followed the Department of Labour’s review of the legislative and regulatory framework for underground mining, after concern surrounding two fatalities in 2006. The review found that the framework was essentially sound, but could be improved, and the best way to develop options was to seek public feedback.

Seventeen submissions were received: four from employers, three from sector groups, three from providers of ancillary mining services, two from unions, two from employees, two from interested individuals and one from a Crown agency.

Both employer and employee submitters overwhelmingly supported the current legislative framework (which places safety duties on particular people but does not specify how they must fulfil them). They did not want to return to a more prescriptive regulatory framework.

Consultation confirmed the department’s review findings that two major issues existed:

• variable safety practices in smaller mines, and

• the quality of employees’ participation in health and safety in mines.

The options in the discussion paper that had the best support were:

• improving health and safety management systems

• raising the minimum qualification level for managers of small mines, and

• ensuring mine owners receive better health and safety technical guidance.

The Department of Labour has taken steps to improve its capability in mining inspection by recently appointing a senior mining advisor after an extensive appointment process in New Zealand and overseas. Part of this role will be developing a strategy for the extractive sector covering the next five years.

Some submitters were strongly in favour of and some strongly opposed to changes to employee participation.


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