Proposed changes to federal mining occupational health safety and welfare (OHS&W) regulations to be implemented on the first of January 2012 have been deferred for twelve months, while lawmakers, Safe Work Australia and Safe Work SA to consider the implications/changes to any OHS&W regulations that affect miners.
Regional Development Australia Far North (RDAFN) and Field Officers of the Mining and Quarrying OHS Committee (MAQOHSC), met with the South Australian Opal Alliance in Coober Pedy in August to discuss the proposed Regulations, and how they would affect their current operations. The meeting also discussed which of the new regulations they could implement without much impact to their current structures. The new mining regulations would have impacted on small miners, such as quarrying, opal and sapphire mining, which are often run by owner/operators of one to two people.
RDAFN, with assistance from the MAQOHSC Field Officers drafted a national submission to Safe Work Australia, on behalf of the National Opal Miners Association, addressing the points of concern for the industry as a whole and the potential impact on the sector across Australia. The submission was ranked number four nationally out of eighty nine submissions to Safe Work Australia and consequently the federal and state organisations will be taking an extra twelve months to consider the best way forward for smaller miners.
Claire Wiseman, Acting CEO of RDAFAN said that the outcome was a great result for small miners in the Far North of the state, “Often opal miners are owner/operators, working alone or with a few family members to mine this precious stone that is Australia’s iconic national gem. The substantial changes that were being proposed could have threatened the viability of the entire industry, so it is great to see that Safe Work Australia have considered the points of our submission and are taking the time to consider what’s the best solution for this niche mining sector”.
“Nationally opal mining is worth in excess of $85 million per annum and Australia is responsible for approximately 95% of the world’s opal production. Although opal mining is a niche market for the country, the opal represents everything that is unique about outback Australia, with even its formation still a bit of a mystery. This was recognised by the Federal Government in 1993 when the opal was declared Australia’s national gem stone,” Ms Wiseman said.
“The safe extraction of opal is important to the Far North region and we are pleased that Safe Work Australia is considering our submission on behalf of all opal miners more closely. We hope for a positive outcome for all parties involved in niche mining,” Ms Wiseman went on to say.