Unlawful conduct by Queensland mines inspector

December 12, 2019 Mining Editor

In an article published approximately 3 months ago, we reported on BHP Saraji leadership team members who had been stood down as a result of findings by a Mines Inspector that they had provided false and misleading information to a Mines Inspector.

The two BMA leadership team members have challenged the process adopted and the findings published by the Mines Inspector and commenced legal proceedings against the Department of Natural Resources Mines and Energy in the Queensland Supreme Court (Case Number 12088/19).

The Department has conceded that its process in investigating the allegations was unfair and the report which it required Saraji to place on the Mine Record, was unlawful.

Under the terms of the settlement, the Department issued the following acknowledgement:

The Mine Record Entry dated 29 August 2019 was made unlawfully because:

  1. it contains findings that [the two engineering leadership team members] committed a criminal offence by a person who had no statutory obligation to publish that finding in a mine record entry;
  2. the mine record entry recorded that the mine record entry (being a report of an investigation, not an inspection) was obliged to be displayed on Safety Notice Boards when there was no such obligation under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 ; and
  3. made such findings without first affording procedural fairness to [the two leadership team members].

The Department acknowledgement is now on the Saraji Mine Record, with the previous Mine Record retracted.  The crux of the acknowledgement is that no Mines Inspector can conduct a voluntary interview of a coal mine worker without first warning the worker of the process and importance of the interview.

Also, Inspectors will no longer be able to publish findings of alleged criminal misconduct and then require mine operators to publish it on the Mine Record. Public findings of criminality can only be made by a court of law.

It is clear from the acknowledgement that it was the Mines Inspector who had a less than adequate knowledge of the legislative requirements to perform his job.” 

We note that the proceedings which resulted in the DNRME legal undertaking has very significant implications for all mineworkers operating under the resources acts over which DNRME has jurisdiction.

The action by the affected BMA personnel and the subsequent undertaking should ensure that all Queensland mineworkers now face fair and lawful investigations by mines inspectors.

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