Illawarra Metallurgical Coal. Picture: South32
Illawarra Metallurgical Coal. Picture: South32

‘Huge impact’: Miner sacks 230 Mastermyne workers

THE boss of a Mackay-based mining company has revealed his disappointment after 230 of his employees were laid off from a NSW mine.

The Mastermyne workers lost their jobs last month following a decision by South32 to slash hundreds of contractor jobs from the Appin coal mine at its Illawarra Metallurgical Coal operation.

A South32 spokesman said the division recently made changes to contractor arrangements at Appin mine as part of a plan update, and in response to COVID-19 and falling coal prices.

Mastermyne had supplied the 230 workers to the project as part of a three-year contract to provide pit shaft services and development.

Mastermyne chief executive Tony Caruso said the $20 million contract was not renewed by South32.

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"They never really gave us a reason," he said.

Mastermyne chief executive Tony Caruso. Picture: Tony Martin
Mastermyne chief executive Tony Caruso. Picture: Tony Martin

While Mr Caruso said the decision by South32 had not financially impacted the company, it had a "huge impact" on the group of NSW-based workers.

"We were disappointed with the timing," he said.

"It was unfortunate that the contract came to an end, and that 230 workers were impacted at such a difficult time due to COVID-19.

"We felt for the individuals. Our concern was making sure they were looked after."

Mr Caruso said some had taken up work at Mastermyne's Queensland operations, while others had found work with other companies.

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CFMEU district vice president Bob Timbs claimed South32 had "exploited this health crisis to drive down wages".

"South32 said this was COVID-related and about a change to the mine plan," Mr Timbs said.

"Unfortunately, what we have seen is they have engaged Workpac, which is another Queensland company."

A South32 spokesman said the changes would help ensure it was fully equipped to operate through the commodity price cycle.

"Safety is our absolute priority at all times," the spokesman said.