2 March 2015

FIFO - the 100% debate

FIFO - the 100% debate FIFO - the 100% debate FIFO - the 100% debate FIFO - the 100% debate

In recent months both the Queensland and the Western Australian governments have been flipping back and forth in a 'will we' or 'won't we' ban 100% FIFO mining sites.

On the one hand they say that the current arrangements are having an effect on regional towns, taking jobs away from the locals and not pushing any money back into their local economies, and in a weird far away delusional reality they may be right to some extent, but I'm not sure they are in this case.

While mining unemployment rates are at an all-time high at the moment, it really is giving the big mining companies a pick of the best when it comes to those that are skilled, educated and experienced and have worked on projects specific to the requirements of their next project.  This has only got to be good for everyone - workers who have put in the effort to become the best, the companies, and let's face it the government as they love taxing mining companies on their projects, especially as the project should then be run on time, on budget and at a profit!!

But, I hear some say, this isn't far for the locals.....

Okay, I see your point, they live close to where the proposed mine is, so yes, they should automatically get a job in that mine, earn loads of money, then when the mining project is done, and all the extra experienced mining workers, who take up residence in the local town leave, what's left? A ghost town… surely this leaves the locals worse off!  Property prices will plummet and those local businesses that saw an increase in profits, will they then need to down scale or close their doors?  Let's not forget that just because you are a local of a town close to a mining site, doesn't necessarily give you the experience and knowledge of what to do on a mining site.  Naivety says you just go in, and for 10-12 hours a day blow stuff up and dig up things… how hard could it be right??!?  Anyone that has worked within mining, not to mention paid their dues (and cartons!) by completing a degree and then worked their way through the experience pipelines will disagree wholeheartedly.  And I'm sure all safety managers will also be shaking their heads (as that's what they do well J)!

So let's look at another scenario, in said mentioned town there's actually quite a large number of unemployed, extremely qualified and skilled miners who are looking for work - great - apply for the jobs, then fly in and fly out.  Most mining workers work on a roster, so don't think after 12 hours of intense work, you're just going to jump in your car to make the 2 - 2&1/2 hour drive back to town to only get up and do it all again the next day and then repeat this 7-14 days in a row or worse still, a 4 week on 1 week off roster…. Fatigue management & SAFETY PEOPLE!!  Isn't this the first thing that is drilled into us all when we enter the site each day, and we all know that driver fatigue is as bigger killer on the road as drunk drivers and incompetent twats! So, I can hear you asking, where did you get the 2 - 2&1/2 hours from? This is the driving distance from the proposed Moranbah mine to Mackay.  So to be a bit fairer, let's say there's a local town a bit closer, say 45 minutes from the mining site, and this is the one that everyone thinks the miners should set up home and camp in and house their families in and help the local town grow….

Well let's talk about that for a minute. 

Number 1, a town that is between Moranbah and Mackay is likely to be a small close knit country town, with a rich history and a strong community.  Do you honestly believe that these locals, who have enjoyed a peaceful, familiar, rural way of living are going to be so happy about the money that the new mine and it's workers and families are going to pour into their town that they'll happily allow all these families and workers to move in, and in some respects take over?  It's never seemed to go down well in any wild west town I've seen in the movies, and let's face it, life in the outback is about as tough as it gets, just like the wild west.

Number 2, on the other side of the coin, let's chat about all those qualified, experienced FIFO workers, who have picked the FIFO lifestyle so they can keep their families in one spot, while they go off and earn a crust and have a chance of improving their children's and family's lives.  This keeps their partners around their own support network and their children in a stable upbringing with better schooling options, while the FIFO worker follows the work around the country from one mining project to another.  And let's not be delusional, FIFO isn't all roses and money, there is so much media and truth in the loneliness and depression that can accompany such a job, but uprooting a whole family to move to a small local town near a mining sit (or "establish' one say the delusional Pollies!), may not actually solve this problem…. Now you're going to have exhausted mine workers, coming home to families that are dealing with their own uprooting and new surroundings… surely this may be a Pandora box itself.

So what's the answer? Sack the Politicians? Educate them?

Well it appears even the government doesn't know as it's flipped and flopped over the last few months and still there is no firm 'will they' or 'won't they'…………..

I say, open the mine, advertise the jobs, may the best candidate be appointed and the Muppets shut out, then depending on those appointed workers' living location let them decided if they'll FIFO, DIDO or take up residence in the local town, but know that if it's not a "short" (for example) maximum of 1 hour drive away they will have to live on camp with the other FIFO workers, and let's be honest, if you were that worker, who lived the 2 - 2&1/2 hour drive from site, wouldn't you also take the all expenses paid chartered 20min flight to site?

Happy flying all!  And may the best candidates be appointed to the right jobs and may the Politicians get back in their box!