BHP Mitsubishi Alliance has been given the go-ahead to build the Red Hill coal mine near Moranbah in Queensland on the condition the operation is not 100 per cent FIFO.
The Coordinator-General approved the project which involves the construction of a new underground coal mine and expansion of the existing Broadmeadow and Goonyella-Riverside coal mines.
This would increase coal output from about 18 million to up to 32.5 million tonnes a year.
BMA suspended plans to build the Red Hill mine in 2012, but the company said the the Coordinator-General’s approval provides the foundation for development planning at the adjacent Goonyella Riverside and Broadmeadow mines, including future extensions into the Red Hill Mining Lease.
“It is important to note that no decision has been made in relation to the timing of development of the proposed new underground mine included within the Red Hill Mining Lease EIS,” the company said.
The project was set to create 2000 construction jobs and 1500 operational jobs, and BMA had originally intended to source employees through 100 per cent FIFO.
However the Coordinator-General detailed workforce conditions which bans the use of a wholly FIFO operation.
The conditions also state anyone must be able to apply for a job on the project, regardless of where they live.
The government also requires detailed and regular reporting on workforce composition and operations as well as an audit of existing housing capacity to be completed before the project starts and best use made of existing capacity.
State Development and Natural Resources and Mines Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said the new mine would provide a valuable job boost in Central Queensland regional communities and businesses.
“But it’s also critical that development takes into account the economic and social impact of 100 per cent FIFO on resource communities,” Lynham said.
“The Co-ordinator-General’s conditions represent a whole new approach to dealing with this workforce issue.”
The new ALP QLD Government signalled its intention to scrap 100 per cent FIFO at the state’s mines when it came into power earlier this year.
An independent panel is looking into the impact of Queensland’s existing 100 per cent FIFO mines near regional communities, while a separate parliamentary inquiry is inquiring into FIFO and other long distance commuting practices across regional Queensland.
The use of wholly FIFO workforces has been a contentious issue in Queensland, with critics saying the system locks locals out of the recruitment process.
BMA’s Duania and Caval Ridge mines operate with 100% FIFO workforces, a move which caused much angst amongst the community.
It meant locals could not apply for jobs at the site, and employees were instead sourced from Brisbane and Cairns.
The mining company has previously defended its decision, claiming it needs access to a diverse workforce.
The CFMEU has welcomed the conditions placed on BMA’s Red Hill mine, stating they are a “victory” for local families.
“Local workers and their families will be relieved at the news that they will not be locked out of employment at yet another mine just kilometres from their homes,” CFMEU district president Stephen Smyth said.
“With access for local jobs, the red Hill project has the potential to deliver a real boost to Central Queensland communities at a time when it is needed most.”