March 28, 2022
We are shocked and saddened by the death of our long-term member and experienced coal mineworker Gavin Feltwell at Moranbah North underground mine late Friday night.
Gavin was fatally injured as a result of a suspended four-tonne load being moved, while an old conveyor drive was being dismantled. Union safety inspectors are conducting their own independent investigation into the circumstances, alongside police and Resources Safety and Health Queensland (RSHQ inspectors).
Queensland District President Stephen Smyth said the fatality had sent shockwaves through the mining industry, with coal mining communities devastated by yet another life lost.
“It is absolutely heart-breaking to know that yet another coal miner has not made it home to his family at the end of his shift. On behalf of the whole union, we extend our sincere condolences to loved ones and workmates. They will have the full support of the union in dealing with this latest shocking tragedy.” As a union member, Gavin’s family will have the full support of the National Assistance Fund’s mortality benefit to assist during this most difficult time.
Moranbah North Lodge President Andy Collins said Gavin had worked at the mine for about eight years as a Mastermyne contractor and was part of the belt crew. “Our workmates really respected him,” said Andy. “He was an experienced coal miner, a father figure and mentor. Everyone is shaken up.”
While operations remain suspended at Moranbah North mine, mineworkers at Anglo’s other Queensland underground operations were disappointed and angry that work didn’t cease as a mark of respect.
At neighbouring Grosvenor mine, which adjoins and shares a washplant with Moranbah North, longwall and development production continued across the weekend. Lodge President Steve Hall finished work at 6am Saturday and was told the news as he was on his way to the bathhouse. Mineworkers starting at 6am started work without being told.
“With a fatality so close, they should have taken everyone out of the pit. That didn’t happen. People are angry and disappointed.”
Steve Hall said Grosvenor miners were already struggling after the 2020 underground explosion which left five workers with severe burns and many others traumatised; and a recent goaf fire that saw production stop.
At Aquila mine, another Anglo operation, Lodge President Grant Hedley said a message was sent to all workers on site that operations would cease due to the fatality, however that didn’t occur.
“After everything that’s happened we just felt we should have stopped. It’s time to stop and reflect,” said Grant.
Instead of stopping production, workers were given a ‘safety reset’ presentation by managers, which reinforced workers’ responsibility for maintaining workplace safety.
But District Vice President Steve Pierce said management accountability was the most important change needed in the industry to prevent the unacceptable rates of death and serious injury.
He said the failure to prosecute Anglo management over the Grosvenor explosion sent a message to mine managers that they could “get away with murder”.
“Investigations will show what really happened at Moranbah North. But the regulator needs to grow a backbone and hold management to account for safety failures, not just give them a slap on the wrist. Workers pay with their lives when things go wrong.”
Gavin Feltwell was a Mastermyne contractor, making him the second Mastermyne employee to be killed underground in seven months after Graham Dawson was killed at Crinum mine in September last year.
Moranbah North’s Andy Collins said that the exact circumstances of Friday night’s tragedy were still to be determined, but that the Lodge had raised concerns about work and pay arrangements for contractors at the site.
“We’ve always been pushing to make them permanent Anglo employees. They are pushed harder to do tasks. One of the bigger issues we’ve been reiterating with management is remuneration; their base remuneration is low but their bonus very high.
“The bonus carrot is too high and they use it as a whipping tool. The guys feel like they can’t argue back as they are going to lose their bonus.
“If they have an incident they are going to have their bonus taken off them, it creates an incentive for them not to report incidents.”
Andy said a recent announcement to review employment arrangements at Grosvenor mine, where the full production workforce is contracted out to One Key, should be extended to Moranbah North where a large proportion of the production workforce is contracted out to Mastermyne.
“Labour hire is not secure employment and contractors know they can lose their job at any time. For them to be given permanent shirts changes the culture. To have our Mastermyne workmates as permanent would be a change for a better workplace and that’s what we’ll keep pushing for.”
The Moranbah community honoured Gavin Feltwell with a minute’s silence at the Miners’ Memorial in a moving vigil on Saturday evening, where Andy lit a miners’ lamp in his honour. Gavin will never be forgotten. May he Rest in Peace.