Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine goes grog-free

Rio Tinto’s Argyle diamond mine is going alcohol-free, with workers fearing that other mine sites around the country will follow suit.

In a move that has been met with mixed reactions, Rio has confirmed that as part of its “future operating model”, alcohol will no longer be offered to workers at the Argyle site.

While some see the move as a healthy one for FIFO employees, others say banning alcohol on site is a sure-sign the perks that previously came with the job are being stripped away.

With FIFO work more scarce now than ever, incentives to keep people on site are quite literally drying up.

“The spending phase, when the focus was not on costs is over and companies are now paring back costs to ensure they can produce the returns they’d hoped for,” mining analyst Peter Strachan said.

He said the days when FIFO workers could demand all sorts of benefits in terms of accommodation and scheduling were over.

Having a beer or two has long been a favourite way for Australian workers to wind down, and the wet mess at mine camps is viewed by many FIFO employees as a way to keep sane.

In a tough working environment that is often hot, dirty and always far from home, wet messes provide a way to socialise after dinner and have been described as an integral part of camp life where friendships are formed.

The area is also used as a popular hang out when workers find themselves with 24-hours off during shift change breaks.

Mine sites have tough wet mess rules which apply to how much alcohol workers can buy and consume.

CFMEU WA district secretary Gary Wood, claims moves to deny workers a drink was “taking advantage of the current conditions”.

He said people were “basically desperate for employment with all the retrenchments going on” and did not support the removal of alcohol.

In a lifestyle where the ability to exercise control over your day-to-day decisions is virtually non-existent, the move to ban alcohol is also being criticised for taking the right to choose away from discerning adults.

Some argue that as long as employees are not blowing over when they return to shift, a few drinks has more positive benefits than negative outcomes.

However, concerns over the health and safety of FIFO workers has led many sites to ban alcohol, or impose more stringent wet mess rules.

In May, two men died at AngloGold Ashanti’s Tropicana mine in Western Australia after an alleged drunken altercation.

What do you think of Rio’s move to ban alcohol?

Would you work at a FIFO site if there was no alcohol available?

We would love to hear from our readers regarding this issue.

Use the comment section below or hit us up at to have your say.


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