FIFO workers arrive and depart from an airport terminal.
FIFO workers arrive and depart from an airport terminal.

Mining region calls for local workforce amid COVID-19 spread

A CENTRAL Queensland mining community leader has called on industry and government to secure a local mining workforce model amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker said the model would reduce the risk of the virus being introduced to the region from FIFO workers commuting via planes and through airports.

It comes after resource giants participated in a high-level telephone hook-up with the Federal Government amid fears of an industry shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis.

As the economic fallout continues, Cr Baker said a local mining workforce in the Isaac region would underpin Australia's ability to weather this storm.

"We are not calling on industry to shut down, as the Prime Minister said everyone who has a job at this point in time is an essential worker, she said.

"We want to keep the mining industry going, and people to keep their jobs.

"Decisions made today will directly impact our ability to recover from this disaster impacting every Australian."

Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker.
Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker.

Cr Baker urged mining companies to shift their workforce model away from reliance on FIFO and non-resident workers and instead take advantage of existing accommodation resources.

"General public accommodation is limited however this is not the same for mining companies," she said.

"Be it camps, dongas, duplexes, houses there's many options available to the mining companies to use the resources they already have on their books. It's up to them to make this work.

"Get these essential workers to the region now, screen and assess their health to ensure safety and house them into the existing industry accommodation."  

Mines Minister Anthony Lynham said the State Government had been discussing FIFO with resources companies for more than a week.

Due to Queensland closing its border, resource companies will be required to submit plans about their interstate procedures.

"DNRME will be also asking all mines in Queensland to provide a COVID plan that covers their workers," Dr Lynham said.

"We expect that all companies will continue to improve their operations and constructively engage with stakeholders, including workers and the local councils. 

"Public safety is our number one priority and we need everyone in the community, in business and in industry to play their part." 

A BMA worker bus at a Moranbah minesite, showing the standard practice moving forward.
A BMA worker bus at a Moranbah minesite, showing the standard practice moving forward.

CFMEU Mining and Energy Queensland president Stephen Smyth said mining was essential for jobs and the economy during the current crisis, but companies needed to lift their health and safety game. 

"Unfortunately, we are seeing too many cases at the moment where mine operators are just not taking this seriously enough - with workers crammed into vehicles and inadequate sanitation," Mr Smyth said. 

He said the industry must also heed the concerns of regional mining communities about the risks posed by FIFO workforces in regards to coronavirus.   

"We encourage mining companies to look at housing workers locally where possible and appropriate." 

Queensland Resources Council chief executive Ian Macfarlane said the sector was implementing every procedure under the national protocol to slow the spread of the disease.

"These protocols are now being strictly enforced by resource companies and across our operations, companies have actioned social distancing, enhanced sanitisation and temperature testing," he said.

"Resources companies are working to protect local communities during these turbulent times and keeping money flowing into the regions through local businesses to support local economies."

The Isaac region contributed a lion's share of the state's $4.8 billion coal mining royalties in the 2018-19 financial year.

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