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Coal mining contractor Mastermyne is looking to Poland to source hundreds of experienced underground miners for Queensland coal jobs.
The company said the experienced Polish miners would act to complement 150 mostly central Queensland workers it had trained from scratch.
Mastermyne Group managing director Tony Caruso told The Morning Bulletin experienced foreign workers were necessary to work alongside newer recruits.
“We want as many Australians as possible to get in and take advantage of the mining boom and to do that we need to [recruit experienced staff],” he said.
Caruso said the move to use experienced Polish workers “was not being done in lieu of using local lads”.
The first 26 Polish workers are set to arrive within two or three weeks, and many of the recruits will be moved to jobs in the southern Bowen Basin.
Caruso said the recruits would be paid the same as Australian workers and be required to meet high English speaking and reading levels.
Mining is one of Poland’s top industrial sectors, and their workers are usually well-qualified and use much of the same equipment as Australia’s industry.
Mastermyne won Employer of Choice at this year’s Australian Mining Prospect Awards for its Myne Start training program.
Earlier in the year Myne Start project manager Brenda Witt told Australian Mining there was a diminishing pool of experienced labour in underground mining.
She said while Mastermyne trained many workers from scratch skills shortages were so high foreign workers still needed to be utilised.
“Unfortunately there’s no silver bullet, for us we have multiple strategies working together to deliver the best result,” she said.
“We are endeavouring to use a balanced approach which includes training and recruiting domestically and internationally with a focus on retention.”
Last week reports emerged that United States President Barack Obama was considering fast-tracking visa applications for US miners applying for Australian mining work.
It followed Australia’s own move to change the 457 visa system to attract more foreign workers.
However in what might seem mixed messages, Julia Gillard last week slammed mining companies for demanding overseas workers while parts of Perth had double digit unemployment levels.
“It is not acceptable to me that I can see a mining CEO who says ‘We’ve got this huge project in the northwest of the country and we can’t get anybody to come and work on it — and we need more immigration and more skilled labour’,” she said.
“And I can find in the suburbs of Perth pockets where youth unemployment is in double digits and those kids haven’t got a chance.”