Close coal industry before robots replace people: Union

QUEENSLAND'S coal should stay buried rather than be used by global companies relying on robots to mine the precious resource, the CFMEU warns.

Fearing a loss of jobs and negative effect on regional communities, CFMEU Mackay district president Stephen Smyth moved a motion at the weekend's Labor conference to take a stronger stand against automation in the state's largest industry.

The union argues mining companies who automate processes and sack workers should pay additional royalties "to offset the impact of the job losses" on communities.

"Automation and technology will frame our industry but it shouldn't be a given we should accept it," he said.

"People shouldn't be falling over themselves to embrace this new technology."

Technological advances in the mining industry have meant monitoring, recording and labour roles have changed over the past three decades.

Mr Smyth said the industry should be shut down before companies could bypass people and use machines to operate fully-automated mines.

"We'd argue the coal should stay in the ground," he said.

"There's no benefit to us.

"Why would we want our coal to be dug up by a multi-national, automated company, with no benefit to us?"

Mining company Anglo American has started a study to determine the feasibility of replacing part of its truck fleet with an autonomous haulage system at its open-cut Dawson Mine in Central Queensland.

The detailed study to replace 23 trucks will be finalised towards the end of this year.

Employees would be redeployed and new roles created if the project proceeds, the Anglo American's metallurgical coal business CEO Tyler Mitchelson said.

Mr Smyth said an economic impact statement should be undertaken to discover what the transition to robots would mean for the industry.

"We want to know what the impact is going to be not just on the mine but the community," he said.

"It's about jobs, it's about the economy and it's about the future."

In 2018 coal accounted for 53 per cent of the state's annual export income, according to Trade and Investment Queensland.



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