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BHP Australian Coal Miners to Strike for 7 Days, Union Says

Workers at BHP Billiton Ltd.’s coking coal mines in Australia, the world’s largest exporter, will strike for seven days from Feb. 15 after rejecting the company’s latest offer.

Union representatives informed BHP of the industrial action today after workers voted to resume strikes that were first started last year, the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union said today in a statement.

“BHP is making enormous profits out of its coking coal operations in central Queensland, but it doesn’t want to listen to its workforce,” Stephen Smyth, district president of the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, said today in an e-mailed statement. “We need to make sure this mining boom doesn’t come at the expense of workers’ safety and the interests of our mining communities.”

About 3,500 workers at BHP’s mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin have held rolling strikes since June over pay and conditions, before suspending industrial action in December to resume contract talks. Labor unions globally are stepping up demands for higher wages and improved conditions as record commodity prices swell profits at mining companies.

Workers at BHP’s Goonyella Riverside, Broadmeadow, Peak Downs, Saraji, Norwich Park, Gregory Crinum, and Blackwater mines will be involved in the strikes starting next week, according to the statement.

“We are extremely disappointed as we have consistently demonstrated our commitment to negotiating constructively with the unions,” BHP said today in an e-mailed statement. BHP “cannot, and will not, diminish our rights and obligations to manage our business, nor will we accept productivity-destroying arrangements as currently proposed by the unions.”

The BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance, which controls the mines in Queensland, is the world’s largest exporter of steelmaking coal and equally owned by BHP and Mitsubishi Development Pty. Almost all the coal mined at the BMA sites, with an annual capacity of 58 million metric tons, is shipped overseas for steel production, according to its website.

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