Local MP Robbie Katter has taken a swipe at North-West Queensland miners as he pushes to broaden anti-FIFO legislation.
Companies like MMG and Round Oak Minerals had a terrible scorecard of FIFO (fly in-fly out) and contractors, the State leader for Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) said.
Mr Katter said the social fabric of towns in his electorate, particularly Cloncurry and Mount Isa, was being destroyed by greedy employment practices that were all about mining companies delivering more dollars to their bottom lines.
But MMG and Round Oak Minerals have countered with a different picture of the region’s workforce issues.
Keen on residential employees
“We’re committed to offering local opportunities where suitable skills are identified and available,” Round Oak chief executive officer Rob Cooper said.
But he said the company did not always get a great response when it advertised positions locally.
“Our mining operations (in the Mount Isa and Cloncurry area) have relatively short life spans, so that might have an impact, and it may be that there are not enough suitably qualified people available,” he said.
Mr Cooper said he agreed with many points Mr Katter made about the benefits of residential workforces, but said there was also a case for government incentives to get people to move to the region and build the available skills pool.
“We’re very positive about having residential employees, because you are putting something back into the community,” he said.
“It also provides a level of stability to our operations, with potentially lower turnover as it’s a bigger decision to change jobs when you also have to move your family to another town, whereas with FIFO – I get where they are coming from – all you have to do when you change jobs is change which flight you get on.
“It is something the industry is struggling with as well – how to make attractive propositions to draw people to these regions.”
Developing local skills base
An MMG spokeswoman said also that company would welcome support for initiatives that would assist in developing and attracting skilled workforces to the region.
“Construction of the Dugald River mine was completed in 2017 following MMG’s decision to invest in the project at a time of reduced mining investment and activity due to lower commodity prices,” she said.
“Over its projected 28-year mine life the operation will provide significant employment, economic and revenue contributions to Cloncurry and Queensland economies.
“During a successful ramp-up of the operations Dugald River mine has been able to sustainably improve our number of local employees. To support capability development in the region, we recently launched a local trainees and apprentices program which will commence in June.”
Mr Katter said KAP would look at legislative changes aimed at stamping out unfettered FIFO and contract employee numbers at Queensland mines, in a bid to protect the viability of the state’s regional and remote communities.
He asked State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick during Question Time this week if he would expand current anti-FIFO legislation.
“Operators needed to have penalties applied for not meeting the expectations of the local community when it comes to local employment,” Mr Katter said.
“At the moment all of the mines in the region will come up with one thousand excuses for not having more locals employed.”
Anti-FIFO laws must be strengthened
Mr Katter said the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act needed to be strengthened to demand that more locally based workers be employed at mines operating in their region, and to deter the rise of contractual workforces.
“In my region, these massive mining companies are smugly smiling at the local people of Cloncurry and Mount Isa and the people of Queensland and are not under enough pressure to contribute to them,” he said.
“Out there we get barely any of the royalties paid to the government back – the mines dig the dirt out of our ground, take our resources and have a big impact on our local services.
“We welcome mining interest and support the industry overall, but the primary benefit our communities can get out of any mining expansion is local jobs and the hope that wages received can go back to supporting businesses in the town.”
Mr Katter said the latest figures available from the Queensland Resources Council, from 2018/19, showed about 5750 people were employed in mining in the North West Minerals Province.
More than half of these workers were FIFO, making up 52 per cent of the workforce. Around 1500 of the workers were contractors.