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Certificates of competency

This paper reiterates AusIMM's commitment to the highest work health and safety standards.

Certificates of competency

About AusIMM
The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (AusIMM) was formed in 1893 and is the leading organisation representing more than 65,000 resources sector professionals in the Australasian region, across industry, government and academia.

Our members include professionals from traditional disciplines such as mining engineers, geoscientists and metallurgists, as well as from disciplines such as business management, finance, health and safety, social and environmental science.

With a focus on enhancing professional excellence, the AusIMM provides members with an ongoing program of professional development opportunities to ensure our members are supported throughout their careers to provide high quality professional input to industry and the community.

Purpose
The purpose of this paper is to reiterate the AusIMM’s commitment to the highest standards of work health and safety which includes the value of certificate of competency requirements throughout the industry for underground mine and quarry managers or supervisors.

Certificate of Competency
Currently under mine safety regulations in various states and territories, people wishing to be appointed as an underground mine manager or quarry manager (or their alternates or deputies), or as an underground supervisor must hold a relevant certificate of competency (CoC).

This ensures that mine management is appropriately qualified to ensure the place of work (i.e. mine design), systems of work (e.g. mining method, extraction sequence, mining equipment), training and supervision are fit for purpose with safety at its core.

Lack of CoC holders
Accordingly, CoCs are not easily granted, especially with the changing legislativelandscape which makes holding and taking mining law exams difficult.

Mining companies are currently having trouble recruiting individuals with the requisite CoCs, which means the pay pressure on these roles is increasing. The AusIMM suggests this is for several reasons, including:

  • lack of CoC examinations held by state regulators due to legal transience,
  • ageing CoC holders who no longer want to work full-time on remote mine sites away from home for long periods
  • the desire of individuals to avoid the potential personal liability associated with site safety management (especially if under duress from financial
    pressure to do more with less), and
  • a decline in the value placed on the CoC by employers more inclined to employ cheaper, overseas labour without the necessary Australian
    qualifications.

Removal of CoC requirements
The AusIMM has concerns about recent considerations by individual jurisdictions to loosen or dilute CoC requirements on mine sites as a result of this industry pressure which has been delivered through lobby groups. These lobby group tend to be supported by those with a financial interest rather than those who see safety as a priority.

There has been significant lobbying by some groups to remove the requirement for a mining engineer with a First Class Mine Manager’s CoC to run an underground mine with up to 25 workers. Similarly, there has been pressure to remove the requirement of a Quarry Manager’s CoC to run an open pit mine. This is somewhat due to the influx of non-traditional professions in open cut iron ore autonomous mines – and a growth in General Managers and Mine Managers with mechanical/civil engineering, nursing and finance backgrounds.

The AusIMM maintains that the highest standards of safety must be upheld, and the CoC is an essential part of this. The Kenner report (2009), a government review into mine safety in Western Australia, saw the CoC as an imperative part of mine safety, which was highlighted in recommendation 50 of this report.

In the New Zealand quarry sector alone, there are 1076 notified sites and only 763 have statutory managers meaning that this sector is short of 313 CoC holders. In other words, 29% of quarries in New Zealand don’t have a CoC holder.

In the last four years there have been five fatalities in the New Zealand quarry sector, all in small poorly resourced operations, without a CoC holder and inadequate health and safety management systems. NZ WorkSafe has been recruiting for inspectors, but the pay is significantly lower and the workload significantly higher than even its Australian counterpart and they have experienced difficulty recruiting quality personnel.

The Deloitte report into safety specifically advises “against any repetition of the type of action that led to past disasters, such as the de-skilling of the inspectorate.”

Recommendations:

  • AusIMM do not believe the CoC requirements or systems of examinationneed to change
  • AusIMM continues to encourage an industry approach to pre-training for Certificates of Competency. This would maintain a high standard of competency but provide support to
  • individuals seeking to undergo examination.
  • Individual companies should inject funds into training and review the quality of such providers to ensure the CoC pass rate improves. There needs to be a pre-assessment of people intending to sit.
  • The selection of individuals to undergo training for obtaining competency accreditation should be rigorous, based on capability, performance and experience. Diluting the competency requirements is unacceptable to the AusIMM and violates the high standards which the industry should be aspiring to. Diluting competencies devalues certification proving fruitless in maintaining and improving standards.

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