An application by mining company BMA to relocate a large mining camp in Queensland’s central highlands has been approved by the state government.
Last year, the Construction, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) was unable to change BMA’s plans to have a 100 per cent fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce at the Caval Ridge coal mine.
Last year BMA submitted an application to move the camp for the mine near Moranbah, south-west of Mackay, and increase the number of rooms for its workforce.
Newly appointed Queensland Employment, Skills and Mining Minister Stirling Hinchcliffe told the ABC the coordinator-general has agreed to relocate the camp, but the number of rooms will be 100 less than BMA wanted, at 445.
According to Hinchcliffe, this meets the requirements that at least 30 per cent of the workforce live in the town.
"That size was interpreted as being more than what was required for the conditions on the mine around its approval for Caval Ridge, being particularly the maximum amount of 70 per cent fly-in, fly-out workforce," he told the ABC.
"It’s an indication clearly that those extra rooms are not required if the project is to meet its condition.
"There’s been no application for a change to that condition around the 70-30 and as a consequence the coordinator general has supported the changes in this application that are in line with the original condition."
Moranbah’s Action Group’s Kelly Vea Vea said she was disappointed by the decision.
"Obviously we have to find some sort of medium as to what is going to contribute to the growth of the community and what is going to be actually realistic in housing such a high proportion of workers, but we’re definitely not supporting the Government’s decision on Buffle Park," she said.
Last year, a report from the Queensland University of Technology, entitled ‘Booze, Blokes and Brawls”, said the number of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workers has created an underbelly of alcohol-fuelled violence, drug abuse and prostitution.
Mining communities dismissed the claims, saying the report did not give an accurate portrayal of the towns.
Gervase Greene told Australian Mining the employment of FIFO workers should be done in conjunction with other employment contracts.
“We do not see FIFO in isolation and don’t think others should.
“Its part of the balanced range of options we offer our workforce in the extremely competitive market for labour, and we have found that offering sweet options is much more successful in attracting and maintaining personnel.
“It’s about a range of options for people as their circumstances change.”
Rio Tinto employs about 40 per cent of its staff on a FIFO basis, but Greene said the stereotypes about FIFO workers are no longer relevant.
“It’s not just young people doing FIFO like it used to be, it might be people who need to be closer to family back home, to be with children or ageing parents.”
“Historically, we would have lost these people from our workforce as their circumstances changes, but now we retain more people by providing flexible arrangement.”
David Flanagan, from Atlas Iron agreed that FIFO work should be one employment option for the mining industry, and its success depends on the individuals.
“I think it comes down to people.
“There’s always been people prepared to work hard and in exchange they get money and they do with it what they want,” he said.
“But most people do the right things with their money.
“I know both sides of politics are prepared to look at, getting access to accommodation is difficult, if more gets built you have somewhere to house them.
“Mining companies have an obligation to offer a range of employment options, but they also have an obligation to invest in communities.
It’s about finding a balance.”
BMA said in a statement it accepts the Queensland government’s decision on the Caval Ridge mine but it still plans to apply for a 100 per cent fly-in, fly-out workforce.
Image: Reidents at the Moranbah Community Centre discuss BMA’s plans for a 100% FIFO workforce. The Daily Mercury