BHP Billiton’s plan to move to fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) operations for its mines in central Queensland is necessary to meet operational requirements for contractors in the area, BHP manager media relations Peter Ogden told MINING DAILY.
BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA) plans to introduce daily FIFO operations from Mackay to service its Norwich Park, Goonyella, Riverside and Peak Downs mines in the Bowen Basin.
The proposed plan has been criticised by local politicians and unions, who believe it will create longer working hours and increase worker fatigue.
“It offers up a lot of issues with the health and well being of those workers,” Queensland Parliament’s member for Fitzroy Jim Pearce told MINING DAILY.
“They’ve got 12 hours at work, an hour in the air and then they’ve got to get home.
“They’re looking at about nine hours that they can be at home.”
This can create problems with physical and mental fatigue, Pearce said.
“Gradually it works up what they call sleep debt, and that’s when people start getting into trouble,” he said.
“Not always on the road driving home, but on the worksite as well.”
According to Ogden, the FIFO program is designed with workers safety in mind.
“BMA treats the safety of its workers as its highest priority and the fly in, fly out arrangements have been rigorously examined and risk assessed to ensure that they are safe and comply with the Mines’ Safety and Health Management System,” he said.
“Using fly in, fly out arrangements to transport workers to work ensures that they are not driving long distances on the road before and after shift.”
A better alternative would be to construct permanent housing near the mine sites, meaning workers would not have to spend time away from their families, Pearce said.
“A lot of young guys are saying to me, ‘I’ve had enough of this travelling in and out because I’m away from my family’,” he said.
“They’re really given no option, and that’s just not fair.”
Pearce warns against the implementation of such programs by large companies such as BMA.
“BMA seems to be the one pushing it at the moment, but they’ll set the precedent for the other mining companies who will get on the bandwagon pretty quickly,” he said.