3 Dec 2011

Solid Energy chief doubts internal source of claims

1:01 pm on 3 December 2011

Solid Energy chief executive Don Elder says he's not convinced a company worker is behind the allegations aired in the media in recent days about safety at the company's Huntly East coalmine.

The company says there is absolutely no evidence backing up claims made in the media over the last week.

"Nobody has given me any evidence to say that this is coming from a worker in our mine," Dr Elder says, "and a lot of our own workers are questioning whether in fact that's the case."

About 150 people, most of them Solid Energy employees, attended a public meeting called by the state-owned company in Huntly on Friday afternoon.

It was held to answer questions after safety concerns raised in the news media following a spike in methane levels inside the mine in mid-November.

'100% comfortable' with systems

Dr Elder says no one in the workforce, the management team, the union or the Department of Labour can find anything to support the allegations.

"I'm absolutely 100 per cent comfortable that we are operating at best practice in the way we operate our systems in the mine, the way our workers and managers work in the mine, and in the way we respond to any information that we receive."

Dr Elder says the culture and spirit of the workforce is too strong to be affected by the allegations, but they're upsetting the community.

He says the company takes the safety of its workers very seriously and no worker will be disadvantaged for coming forward with safety concerns.

Ringing endorsement from union

Meanwhile, the union representing miners says it has confidence in health and safety at the mine.

Kerry Magee, the Engineering Printing & Manufacturing delegate who is the mine's health and safety officer, says there are good systems in place.

"Over the 25 years I've worked with the company," he says, "the safety's game's gone up a couple of steps. Well, more than a couple of steps - we've improved tenfold."

Mr Magee says it's sad and unfortunate that someone has gone to the media rather than through the right channels.