The ‘Centre’ of the FIFO debate

You simply can not talk about Central Queensland and its coal fields without running head on into the contensious issue of fly in fly out (FIFO) mining.

The ongoing saga of local residents battling against an influx of transient workers brought in by the major coal miners has dominated headlines in the region.

Moves by miners such as the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) to source 100% of its workforce via fly in fly out workers for its Caval Ridge and Daunia coal mines, instead of a previously agreed workforce quota of a minimum 30% from the local region, enraged the nearby community of Moranbah.

Mining intensifies

Anglo American has also announced plans to construct 50 houses and units to accommodate the additional miners needed for its two new underground coal mines.

Community organisations such as the Moranbah Action Group have vocally protested the existing levels, and planned increases, of fly in fly out miners in Queensland’s Isaac region, drawing attention to the issue.

With the local communities such as Moranbah, Collinsville, Dysart and Blackwater coming to a head with miners such as Rio Tinto and BMA, what is being done to fix this massive rift?

The Isaac Regional Council has made some major moves to restrict the numbers of FIFO miners by limiting the amount of new accommodation being built to service this group.

It called for a cap on all mining camp construction, like Buffel Park, to ‘ensure there is a supply of family friendly accommodation’.

The council sought a 30% cap for both village style rooms and medium to high density unit development.

It also asked the Queensland Urban Land Development Authority that there be a minimum of 40% detached residential housing built.

The community takes a stand

But it is not just the councils taking steps to limit the levels of FIFO workers in Central Queensland.
Citizens in Moranbah have formed the Moranbah Action Group, headed by Kelly Vea Vea, which has been one of the most vocal community representative groups speaking out against FIFO.

Towns such as Blackwater, Collinsville, Moura and Dysart have also formed community groups, such as the Dysart Community Action Association, to give their citizens a voice in the FIFO fight.

One of the most recent developments in representation is the formation of the Queensland Mining Communities, which united Central Queensland towns and these disparate groups, and focuses on "developing a better approach to a more sustainable development of mining communities," it claims.

Community interaction

However not all miners and mining communities are butting heads.

One miner, Stanmore Coal, is actively promoting greater interaction of its staff with the community.

Unlike other mining firms it is offering incentives for miners who choose to relocate and live in towns near its mines in Central Queensland and New South Wales.

Speaking to Australian Mining, Stanmore Coal managing director Nick Jorss said "(Stanmore) is interested in doing what is right in the long term, and what’s in the best interest of the company and the community.

"We are going to do what we can to co-exist. This issue of FIFO is still resonating in the communities, and it should be about taking a balanced approach. We are looking at a number of options and encouraging people to live locally, but not everyone can live in the towns," Jorss said.

While Stanmore has taken a unique approach to the FIFO issue, with mining only set to grow in the region, it is a problem that is unlikely to go away any time soon.

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