Alpha does not want to become a mining town: report

The township of Alpha in Central Queensland prefers the idea of a 2000-strong fly-in-fly-out workforce instead of turning into a ‘mining town’.

That was one of the findings of Clive Palmer’s Waratah Coal’s "supplementary environmental impact statement" for its $8 billion China First project, The Observer reported.

Palmer is planning to build a $4b thermal coal mine, a $2.1b rail line and $2b in port infrastructure at Abbot Point terminal near Bowen.

During construction of the project, 3500 workers will be employed by the company.

Of those, 1900 will be based in western Queensland, 1872 will be FIFO, with just 28 to be housed in Alpha.

The SEIS state’s the company is responding to community concerns around the social, economic and environmental consequences regarding the impact of FIFO and large worker camps.

"Notwithstanding a strong preference among mine workers for DIDO or FIFO employment (surveys indicate more than 83% of non-resident workers in the Bowen Basin prefer DIDO/FIFO), Waratah Coal has outlined a strategy to support Alpha's growth while preserving and contributing positively to the existing lifestyle and friendly, rural atmosphere," the company says.

"Without a large number of DIDO or FIFO workers Alpha would become a 'mining town' – consultation with the local community has revealed that this is not the preference of the majority of Alpha residents."

Palmers 20-year sales agreement with China Power International Development, one of China’s largest power companies will see the company buy 30 million tonnes of coal per year at a cost of around US$3 billion a year.

“This deal with CPI is Australia’s biggest ever export contract,” Palmer said at the time the deal was announced.

A new report examining the impacts FIFO has on the community was released last month exposing the downsides of using a transient workforce.

The findings of the 209-page report were tabled in Parliament last month, making 21 recommendations to government and 14 to industry including better resourcing communities under pressure from large FIFO workforces and removing tax benefits for companies using transient workforces.

Independent MP Tony Windsor, who chaired the committee, wrote in the report's foreword that governments of all levels needed to recognise and act on the issues impacting regional communities who were hosting large FIFO workforces.

Windsor said a policy mix was needed to ensure FIFO did not lead to "a hollowing out of established regional towns, particularly those inland.

"It recognises that there are some circumstances where FIFO/DIDO is warranted – for construction and very remote operations.”

"But for operational positions located near existing regional communities, every effort should be made to make FIFO/DIDO the exception rather than the rule."

In what could further impact Alpha and put a strain on the town’s resources, Gina Rinehart’s and GVK Hancock’s $10bn Alhpa Coal Project has been approved.

The massive Alpha Coal Project involves two coal mines in the Galilee Basin, a 495 km standard gauge railway line as well as the port facilities at Abbot Point.

The project is set to create 650 jobs during port construction while the combined Alpha mine rail and port project will provide 1800 on-going, intergenerational operational jobs and employ 4000 people during construction.


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