ON Saturday, Brodie Gilks and Corrine McCarthy took the difficult step to speak publicly about the hostility they've encountered working at Muswellbrook's Mount Arthur coal mine, and the problems they've had after injuring themselves driving the massive 240-tonne-load Caterpillar trucks used in the Hunter's biggest open-cut pit.
Their gender is not the main issue here. There are male mine workers at Mount Arthur and elsewhere who have found themselves just as let down, isolated and angry as Brodie and Corrine, after injuring themselves on the job.
But with BHP chief Andrew Mackenzie wanting a 50 per cent female workforce by 2025 it would seem the company has some work to do on the ground, even if it wants to exit thermal coal by selling Mount Arthur and its half-stake in Brazil's Cerrejon mine.
The Mount Arthur saga has been rumbling away in the Hunter since at least 2015, but neither side of politics, it seems, has been interested in the growing list of concerns amassed by injured mine worker Simon Turner and his friends.
Now, however, One Nation has taken up the case, with Senator Malcolm Roberts asking questions at Senate estimates committee a fortnight ago, and making it clear that he and his party leader, Pauline Hanson, are determined to get to the bottom of things.
Regardless of what One Nation does from here, it appears that the renegade party's initial interest has opened doors to the Coalition in Canberra, which has been listening to the Hunter contingent at ministerial level.
Time will tell whether the Coalition is interested because it genuinely cares about the plight of injured Hunter mine workers, or whether it sees the situation as a potential weapon against an already struggling Labor opposition.
Mine worker and One Nation candidate Stuart Bonds is agitating for an independent inquiry to clarify both the conditions at Mount Arthur, and the performance of a number of industry bodies controlled with legislative approval by the CFMEU and the NSW Minerals Council.
Before then, the Herald believes that the companies involved, and the industry's existing structures, should be given a chance to address the issues confronting them. The still-necessary coal industry has enough enemies at the moment, without giving its critics more ammunition.
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