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Anglo American workers 'fuming' about restart of coal mine after blast -union

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Logo of Anglo American is seen on a jacket of an employee at the Los Bronces copper mine, in the outskirts of Santiago
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MELBOURNE (Reuters) -Anglo American Plc has not kept workers fully informed of plans to restart a coal mine in Queensland nearly a year after a blast injured five people, a union official said on Friday, but the company called the comments unfounded.

The miner re-opened its Grosvenor coal mine after securing regulatory approval on Thursday, and has begun a staged restart, Anglo said. The mine was shut after the explosion last May, the company's second incident in 15 months in the area.

"The workforce has said loud and clear that they want their union safety inspectors kept informed about re-entry plans," Stephen Smyth, the Queensland president of CFMEU Mining and Energy, said in a statement.

"Yet our industry safety and health representatives were not given any notice or information about the re-entry. This has left workers fuming."

In a statement, Anglo American said Smyth's comments were unfounded, adding that union representatives were part of the restart team and the key representative was notified and invited to the site.

"We have kept our workforce closely informed as we have worked through re-entry planning over the past few months, however, until the directive was lifted by the regulator, re-entry could not have proceeded," it said.

Workers have also raised concerns about a one-on-one interview process ahead of the restart that quizzed them about their mental health and ability to work safely underground, Smyth said in the union's statement.

"To put these labour hire workers on the spot, making them fear they’ll be targeted or lose their job, creates unnecessary stress and lack of trust," he said.

"We all want Grosvenor mine to re-open safely. Again, I’m urging the Anglo leadership ... to listen to the reasonable concerns of its workforce and build trust, not breach it."

The findings of an inquiry into the incident are set to be handed to the state government at the end of May.

Mine safety inspectors will visit this week after Anglo remotely sealed off the area of the explosion.

"Restricted re-entry can now be undertaken at an acceptable level of risk," Resources Safety and Health Queensland said in a statement.

But Anglo will not be able to restart until the mine is able to further demonstrate to the inspectorate that the safety and health management system "provides for suitable controls" to prevent a recurrence of the May incident, it added.

The mine produced 4.7 million tonnes of metallurgical or steel-making coal in 2019.

(Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Tom Hogue and Clarence Fernandez)