BRISBANE, AAP – Mining giant BHP will refuse to let unvaccinated staff, contractors and visitors enter its Australian work sites from early next year.

The company confirmed its mandatory COVID-19 policy on Thursday, a couple of months after flagging it as a likely response to the pandemic.

The mining union, the CFMEU, has already said it opposes the move and vaccinations should be voluntary.

In a statement on Thursday, BHP said COVID-19 jabs will be a condition of entry for all its work sites, including mines and office spaces, from no later than January 31 next year.

Some sites will impose the rule earlier than that.

“BHP workplaces in NSW (e.g. Mt Arthur Coal) will introduce this control sooner considering local risk factors,” the company said.

It said BHP would also comply with recently announced public health orders in Western Australia and Victoria relevant to the resources sector, which in some cases exceed what the company is proposing nationally.

“We have undertaken a thorough assessment and believe that this is the right path forward to protect the health of our people, their families and the communities where we operate,” BHP Minerals Australia president Edgar Basto said.

He said that included remote Indigenous communities.

“We know this will raise questions for some, and we will work closely with our workforce as we go through the process of implementing these controls at our workplaces.”

Stephen Smyth is the president of the Mining and Energy division of the CFMEU Queensland and says the union’s position has always been that miners should be given a choice.

He said the policy would trigger consultation provisions and risk assessments that apply to any significant changes in the workplace.

“They are required to consult with the employees, and the employee representatives, and that will commence in coming weeks,” Mr Smyth said.

He said the policy would also have major implications for other employers who serve as contractors to BHP.

The effect of the BHP mandate is that contractors it does not directly employ will also have to be vaccinated, or risk being locked out of job sites.

BHP has said exemptions will apply for people who cannot be vaccinated for health reasons.