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The Australian Government has continued to work with state and territory ministers and the resources sector to ensure critical projects keep operating during the coronavirus pandemic.

Following the introduction of health and safety protocols for the resources sector last week, Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt and the state resources ministers met again to discuss ways to keep the sector active.

“The Australian resources sector is a key part of the Australian economy,” Pitt said.

“The commodities Australia mines keep the lights on here, they supply the essentials for major businesses like smelters and refineries, and our exports will be critical in keeping international economies going as they too deal with the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease of 2019) pandemic.”

The resource sector’s national COVID-19 health and safety protocols, built in partnership with the Australian Government, the Minerals Council of Australia and state resources chambers, recognises the resources sector as essential under state and territory laws and allows some lenience in border restrictions for the mining workforce.

Pitt said where possible,  jurisdictions would work together to maximise the ability of workers to move between states and territories.

He noted that each state was regularly reviewing its requirements in accordance with the advice from the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee and respective state and territory chief medical officers.

“State and territory ministers have committed to keep working together as each jurisdiction updates its border rules,” he said.

Queensland chief health officer Jeannette Young also released further directions on border restrictions, which will apply from 11.59 pm on April 4 until the end of the declared public health emergency.

The requirement is, anyone who enters Queensland from any other state or territory and is not an exempt person, must self-quarantine for 14 days. Critical interstate fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) mine workers will be exempt from the new restrictions.

The Queensland Resources Council has defined “critical resources sector employees” as any person  required to be appointed under the coal mining safety and health act 1999; the mining and quarrying safety and health act 1999; or the petroleum and gas (production and safety) act 2004 if the position is mentioned in the list published on the Queensland Health website; or a person that has been approved by the chief health officer as a critical resources sector employee.

New South Wales Minerals Council also supported the health and safety protocols, with chief executive Stephen Galilee confirming that the state had already implemented workforce protection measures in accordance with the protocol.

“Mining is playing an important role supporting our economy during this difficult time. And as mines implement their COVID-19 management plans, our industry will be ready to take on our share of the economic heavy-lifting as (New South Wales) starts to rebuild in the future,” Galilee said.