SOURCE: ABC News | Wed 12 Mar 2014, 1:26pm

It’s widely accepted that Australia has one of the safest mining industries in the world, but some suggest standards could be slipping.

Mining industry leaders in Queensland and Tasmania spoke out this week, saying safety regulations must be improved, but Safe Work Australia maintains that fatalities in mines are declining.

Queensland’s mines safety commissioner issued a safety alert last week, saying that the Australian mining industry had recently seen a disturbing increase in mining deaths.

Stewart Bell says nine people have died on mine sites in the last seven months, most being contractors.

“One fatality is too many, so I’m just focused on the fact that mostly contractors seem to be dying, because they may not have the same level of training as people actually working at the mine and they may not be familiar with the mine site.”

Other states have also raised concerns, with the Tasmanian Minerals Council calling for the development of a national safety framework.

Despite these claims, Safe Work Australia analyst Fleur de Crespigny believes there is no reason for concern.

“There were nine fatalities in 2013. Of those, seven were people employed in the mining industry and two were labour hire staff working on mine sites.

“It actually compared quite well to the previous four years.

“If you consider there’s been a really large increase in employment in the mining industry, this is actually a pretty good result.”

Commissioner Stewart Bell is unconvinced, saying complacency is a real danger for Australians working on mine sites.

“We can’t have complacency slipping into our workforce. Coal mines and metal mines don’t have to be dangerous places, if people follow the correct processes and procedures set down.”

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