COAL miners at the Bloomfield open-cut mine near Maitland have had their wages supplemented by the COVID-19 subsidy JobKeeper, mine owner Bloomfield Group has confirmed.
A Bloomfield spokesperson said the company had also applied for JobKeeper at its larger Rix's Creek open-cut mine at Singleton, which employs about 300 people.
A weekly Bloomfield newsletter dated July 27 said "Rix's Creek Mine is eligible for JobKeeper", and thanked employees for their "prompt responses" in filling out the application forms.
The Bloomfield spokesperson said employees at the company's Kings Engineering business at Rutherford had also been supported by JobKeeper but not its other maintenance business, Four Mile Pty Ltd.
Bloomfield was founded in 1934 by Roy Cant and the group is now controlled by managing director John Richards, who married into the family.
The coal industry is notoriously cyclical when it comes to coal prices and profitability, with long-standing structures in place to deal with the lay-offs, known in the industry as a "cavil out".
Until recently, mining appeared to be avoiding the worst of the coronavirus impacts, although fly-in, fly-out operations were having to cope with border closures.
But export tonnages are falling, as well as prices, because of lower demand from major customers, and because of Chinese restrictions on Australian coal as part of the political and trade battles between China and the West.
In a statement to the Herald, the company said: "The Bloomfield Group operates in both international and domestic markets within the mining and engineering sectors.
"Like many businesses, we have recently experienced a decline in turnover. Where we satisfy the eligibility criteria, The Bloomfield Group has made applications for JobKeeper support.
"In addition to focusing on how we best protect more than 500 local jobs, we are maintaining our strict COVID-19 protocols to reduce the risk to our employees, their families, our contractors and the broader community."
Under the JobKeeper criteria announced in March, companies were eligible for the subsidy if their turnover had fallen by 30 per cent or more.
For businesses whose "aggregated turnover" had previously been $1 billion or more, the fall needed to be at least 50 per cent.