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Mental health of miners in research spotlight

20 December, 2012

An internationally-respected mental health researcher at the University of Newcastle will lead an important new project into the extent and impact of mental health problems in the Australian coal industry.

Supported by a $350,000 grant from the Australian Coal Association Research Program (ACARP) announced recently, Professor Brian Kelly and his team will partner with the New South Wales Minerals Council and the Hunter Institute of Mental Health.

"We estimate that mental health problems in the NSW coal mining industry cost up to $AU429 million in productivity losses each year," Professor Kelly said.

"One in five Australians experience a mental health problem in a 12 month period. We know there is a link between mental health problems and injury, with contributing factors related to fatigue, and drug and alcohol use."

The project will involve open cut and underground mines in NSW and Queensland, and has two specific aims.

"Firstly, we will identify the patterns of mental health problems among coal industry employees; the factors associated with these problems; and the impact on employees’ health, workplace safety and productivity," Professor Kelly said.

"Then we will develop a mental health promotion, prevention and intervention model that examines the range of assistance currently available and develops strategies to promote well being and prevent problems."

NSW Minerals Council CEO Mr Stephen Galilee said the research would build on the important collaboration established with the University and the Hunter Institute.

"The mining sector is deeply committed to the health and wellbeing of its employees and their families. This vital research project will translate into effective solutions and demonstrates the Australian industry’s leadership in this important area," Galilee said.

The Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) – a multidisciplinary research hub at the University of Newcastle – is supporting the project.

"Research at NIER is driven by demand within the energy and resources sector and the challenges faced by governments, community and industry," NIER Director, Dr Alan Broadfoot, said.

"Workplace health and safety and employee wellbeing is a challenge that impacts not only the mine site but also the communities and economies that rely on mining."

Professor Kelly’s project will begin in January 2013 and run for 18 months, and is one of eight separate research projects to share in $1.5 million of ACARP funding awarded to the University of Newcastle.

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