BMA’s expansion plans flares up 100% FIFO debate

The debate around the use of 100 per cent FIFO workforces has heated up as BMA forges ahead with plans to expand two coal mines and build a new one in central Queensland.

BMA is proposing to expand underground coal mines Broadmeadow and Goonyella Riverside, as well as develop a new mine called Red Hill.

The project will generate 2000 jobs in construction and an additional 1500 in operation and the miner says a flexible 100 per cent FIFO workforce is needed for the projects, with a 3000-bed workers camp part of the proposal.

With the plans currently before Queensland’s Co-ordinator General, Isaac Regional Council has called on the state government to stand by an election promise and reject the use of a wholly FIFO workforce, ABC reports.

Councillor Kelly Vea Vea said the plan is unfair on locals and will force many to move Brisbane to gain work on a project that is just kilometres from their homes.

"Campbell Newman made some very clear statements that 100 per cent fly-in fly-out applications would not be acceptable under his government.

"These are really tough times for people out here and what we'd like to see is those people given a fair go."

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said a final decision on the project has not been made and said the Co-ordinator General needed to consider all options.

"Our part of it is to ensure that there is a range of options available and the Co-ordinator General, as part of the assessment process, will look at the options available and decide what's acceptable,” Seeney said.

"We think this mine should be given every opportunity to go ahead."

Federal Member for Capricornia, Michelle Landry, said with a downturn in the mining sector and thousands of job losses across the state, locals should be given priority.

"Now these people are basically taking the jobs of the locals."

Landry said business in mining towns are struggling to survive.

"Some of them are just holding in there, hoping things will improve,” she said.

"But what's happening is these people are being flown into these camps – work and sleep and eat there – and then on the plane and go back out again and the local communities [are] missing out on it."

A BMA spokeswoman said flexible employees need to be retained given the uncertain timing of the expansion plans.

The project was initiated in 2008, but was abandoned in 2011 due to ‘challenging external environment’, according to BMA.

This is not the first time BMA has come under fire for opting to use 100 per cent FIFO workforces at central Queensland mines.

Last year the company was forced to defend its decision not to employ locals at its new Daunia and Caval Ridge mines in the Bowen Basin.

It was hoped that BHP would source the 1000 employees needed for the project from the surrounding areas of Moranbah, Dysart, Mackay and Rockhampton but instead workers have been flown in from Brisbane and Cairns.

President of the Moranbah Traders Association, Peter Finlay, has previously said local residents should have the opportunity to apply for jobs in their own community.

"It's seven kilometres from the post office and if you want to work there you can't have an address in Moranbah – how stupid is that?" he said.

While earlier this year, Former state politician and Central Queensland Coal Communities advocate Jim Pearce said mining communities would turn into “ghost towns” as workers leave to secure FIFO work.

Pearce said the state and federal governments should "hang their heads in shame" for allowing BMA to opt for a wholly FIFO workforce.

"I think it's about time the people of Queensland and people with some authority started to ask the questions why mining companies prefer to have FIFO ahead of a sustainable existing community. The reason is because they get tax concessions for constructing mining camps,” Pearce said.

He called on the state and federal governments to take a serious look at the situation.

"Taxpayers, mining companies and the government have put a lot of money into building these mining communities; that's why we need to use them."

The latest debate is also set to draw the ire of the unions who have consistently criticised BMA’s use of 100 per cent FIFO workforces.

“By relying so heavily on FIFO, BHP is locking out local workers from the benefits and delivering more negative aspects of the mining boom the Central Queensland communities,” the CFMEU’s national secretary Andrew Vickers has said.

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