Workforce living close to mines could be new normal
MINING giants and the State Government must take a hard look into local mining workforces at existing mines in the long-term, says Dawson MP George Christensen.
The Federal LNP MP said this would need to occur as part of a review by mining companies into their operations over the next six months and beyond.
It comes after Resources Minister Keith Pitt told The Australian Financial Review the crisis would prompt mining and energy companies to permanently reduce fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers in favour of those who live close to mines.
Mr Pitt said while extremely remote projects, such as offshore oil rigs, would always require FIFO, many workforce changes prompted by the pandemic may never be reversed.
Mr Christensen said he had written to Mr Pitt, the Prime Minister, Premier and Mines Minister in recent weeks calling for action on FIFO workers. He said support for the mining industry in the Mackay region would continue as long as local jobs were involved.
"I think that there is a degree of inevitability about (local mining workforces) because quite honestly, we don't want big holes in our backyard with no economic benefit for our region," he said.
"The State Government actually has very good laws in place for the development of future mines in ensuring there are local workforces. I think there's work to be done in existing mines."
But Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said it was "unhelpful" to discuss the future use of FIFO during the pandemic.
"We can talk about long- term FIFO alternatives and other issues through the State Government's review of the Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act when the COVID-19 situation is under control and workers aren't worried about how they'll feed their families if they lose their job," Mr Macfarlane said.
"That review is under way and Mr Christensen will have the opportunity to comment at the appropriate time."
Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the State Government had already delivered on its commitment to legislate against 100 per cent FIFO workforces on large resource projects near regional communities.
Those laws were extended to cover another eight mines, requiring them to use workers from local communities when they recruit.
"As Queensland and the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, our resources sector and its workforce will be critical to our ongoing recovery," Dr Lynham said.
"Right now, all of our focus should be on getting through this rather than gazing into crystal balls."