Mitsubishi executive Kanji Nishiura with Premier Campbell Newman at Daunia Mine.
Mitsubishi executive Kanji Nishiura with Premier Campbell Newman at Daunia Mine. Kelly Butterworth

Mining giant acting coy about entirely FIFO operations

SUSPICION is looming large for coal mining unions, as they suspect BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance's entirely FIFO operations are about more than workers.

During celebrations of BMA's official opening on Wednesday of its $1.5billion Daunia coal mine outside Moranbah, Premier Campbell Newman and executives praised the mining goliath for hiring "almost half" of its 450-strong team from outside the mining industry.

Daunia is also part of a recruitment program, alongside the under-construction Caval Ridge mine, targeting only workers from Brisbane and Cairns.

CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth calculated that adding up BMA's FIFO workforce with up to 225 "cleanskins" delivered a simple answer.

BMA was trying to stop unions having a foothold at its new mines, he said.

The mining giant opted not to comment on the accusation.

Mr Smyth said with thousands of mine workers losing their jobs throughout Central Queensland, including some dismissed from BHP, experienced locals should have been given the chance to work.

"Generally workers from mining communities with experience in the industry are often union members as they are concerned for their working conditions and safety long-term," Mr Smyth said.

"BHP has deliberately pushed for 100% FIFO operations at Daunia and Caval Ridge to lock out applicants who are union members."

BMA and a trio of unions including the CFMEU were locked in a bitter industrial relations fight for two years, finally agreeing on a workplace deal late last year.

The prolonged battle involved stop-work meetings, picket lines, rolling strikes, court action from both sides and a costly hit to BMA's productivity.

When asked about Mr Smyth's claims, BMA referred back to comments from BHP coal boss Dean Dalla Valle on Wednesday.

Mr Valle mentioned the unions only in relation to enterprise bargaining due later this year - he said he looked forward to a "constructive dialogue" with unions.

Mr Smyth said in relation to the upcoming negotiations, he hoped for an "open and constructive approach" from the company.