'Don’t bother coming to work’: 170 miners jobless
"DO NOT bother coming out to work, because there are no jobs."
That is the message 170 Bowen Basin mine workers received on Tuesday after the Cook Colliery coking coal mine near Blackwater was placed into voluntary administration.
The mining company's downfall was confirmed with an announcement on the ASX, with KordaMentha partners Jarrod Villani and Robert Hutson appointed administrators.
Speaking exclusively to News Queensland, a Cook Colliery operator, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he first learned he had lost his job while driving to work on Tuesday.
The Rockhampton man, who had been working at the mine for the past two years, said he first thought it was a joke.
"One of the guys I work with called me and said 'have you heard the news?' I said I hadn't and he said 'look, there's no jobs, they've closed the mine and they have security guards out the front'," the miner said.
"I thought he was pulling my leg but I pulled over and messaged my boss and he then said it was true."
The worker said with less than a week until Christmas, it was a huge blow to the Central Queensland community.
"Just before Christmas … that's the biggest killer. It was a big surprise. We don't have a job. We have to get Christmas over and done with and then try and find work ," he said.
"Majority of the workforce has been told 'go to your camp rooms, pick up your belongings and leave'.
"There is still stuff that is underground to the belonging of people, like tools and that but we can't get them because the administrators haven't given permission to do so
'It's crazy. There are blokes that have flown from Brisbane, NSW and they have arrived at their destination ready to go out to the mine site and have had messages from their friends saying 'don't bother coming out because there's no jobs'."
The mine worker said he would spend time with his family over Christmas before looking for a new job.
He said thankfully, his contractor had pledged to pay his week's wage, but others were not as lucky.
"The workers are from all over the place but a lot seem to be from Rockhampton and Yeppoon. There are some from NSW and the Sunshine Coast. Emerald has a large amount of people involved," he said.
"There are two contractors on site and one contractor is happy to pay for our week's wage without being at work whereas the second will not.
"THERE is work available out there but I will definitely be looking. It always pays to move forward and be positive because the mining industry can turn on you, as we know. Permanent workers don't exist, you're just a number."
Bounty's primary lender, QCoal Bounty Holdings Pty Ltd, appointed Ben Campbell and Chris Hill of PwC as receivers and managers of Bounty and its subsidiaries.
A spokesman for PwC said the receivers and managers were "exploring all options to sell or restructure" the Cook Colliery mining business.
"About 40 workers remain employed, representing all direct employees of the business. Once the mine was placed into care and maintenance, about 170 contractors were informed that continuation of their services would be subject to an ongoing assessment of resources required during the receivership period," he said.
"The receivers and managers are working closely with all stakeholders, including employees and contractors, to ensure they are fully informed as the process advances.
"It is the intention of the receivers and managers to explore all options to sell or restructure the business. This process has only just commenced, and an update will be provided once the future direction of the company is known."
While workers said they had no idea what was coming, Bounty Mining Limited chairman Rob Stewart's address to the company's annual general meeting on November 21 painted a bleak picture.
"Since Bounty's decision to make an offer to purchase the Caledon assets including Cook Colliery, Bounty has had quite a rough journey," Mr Stewart said.
"The primary problems have been, but are not limited to, lower than expected productivity, poor plant and equipment reliability, and more recently, falling coal price and two rock falls.
"These are not excuses, but normal factors that impact the fortunes of underground mining businesses and the company must adjust to deal with them."
CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said workers at the mine had received little information about the situation.
He said Cook Colliery was owned by Bounty Mining but the operational workforce was contracted out to labour hire contractor ABM.
"News the mine owner has gone into administration is a terrible blow to workers in the week before Christmas," Mr Smyth said.
"To make a bad situation worse, workers have told us that they've received little information about what is happening.
"We are calling on the administrators and ABM to provide workers and the union with full details about the current circumstances and what entitlements workers are owed.
"Unfortunately, because most of these workers are employed as casuals they are likely to get nothing but a door slamming shut behind them.
"The union will do everything we can to support workers affected by this sudden closure."
Flynn MP Ken O'Dowd, whose electorate encompasses the mine site and much of its workforce, said his thoughts and best wishes went out to the workers who had lost their jobs.
'It is always difficult at this time of the year without added extra pressure of not having a job," Mr O'Dowd said.
"The receivers will undertake an urgent assessment of the business for the future whether that be restructure or selling. I urge employees to visit the insolvency cases section of the PwC website for more information."