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Risk and Coal Mining Governance

Underground » Health and Safety

Published: June 06Project Number: C14019

Get ReportAuthor: Jim Joy, Graham Terrey | MISHC Univeristy of Qld, NSW DPI

This project examines risk management in the coal sectors of the Queensland and New South Wales mining industry by comparing an ‘ideal image’ derived from best practice principles of risk management to legislative obligations and regulatory practice. Risk management practice in industry differs markedly at law, due to the dichotomy in the legal application of risk management.  It recognises the evolution of the industry and risk based regulation over recent years, and its standing to make further, significant improvements if encouraged.  Existing arrangements show an array of conflicting demands; the conflict between risk management and prescribed controls in mining operations and their legal application demands significant improvement.

The way forward will benefit from a set of risk management principles, since changes might need to be negotiated through the maze of industry technology, culture and politics and the regulatory environment. Principles have been developed and an example ‘ideal image’ is proposed to help discuss vital obligations.  Through this project, a series of recommendations are made regarding key risk issues, which will be of interest to the industry and may be of interest to those charged with making improvements to regulatory practice and legislation.  These or similar principles should be used to influence legislation improvements – rather than simply refining existing legislation, it is suggested that a review of principles is a better way to begin.

This study establishes an urgent need to clarify risk management requirements in the law through the development and promotion of a regulatory practice code similar to the UK HSE documents, “Reducing Risks, Protecting People” (R2P2), as well as providing additional actions to clarify and further evolve regulation.

While it is probably in the area of regulatory practice that the demand is most urgent, there are existing hazards that require legislative amendments to make real gains in managing the risks.  The success of the risk management and non-legislative solution to the hazards of outbursts in the southern coalfields of New South Wales is indicative of the possibilities for risk management to deal adequately with serious hazards. However, there are a few issues of critical importance that spring easily to mind, where specific hazards have detailed legislative control requirements – or worse still, both general duties as well as specific controls.

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