Adani left off FIFO list
New law to take effect next month could be ineffectual and a legal nightmare for mining
Wednesday 07 February 2018
The Isaac Regional Council has written to the Queensland Government requesting that Clermont is added to a draft list of protected towns under the “Strong and Sustainable Resource Communities Act” (SSRCA).
This week IRC discussed a draft list of towns and mines that would be affected by the new legislation, ahead of the SSRCA taking effect next month.
The SSRCA will, in theory, bring an end to the use of a 100% fly-in fly-out (FIFO) workforce for the operational phase of a large resource project when there is a nearby regional community.
The legislation will define “a large resource project” as one that requires or holds a site-specific Environmental Impact Statement and has a workforce of more than 100 workers, while a “nearby regional community” is within a 125 km radius of the project, and has a population of more than 200.
However, after political lobbying by some stakeholders, Isaac Regional Mayor Anne Baker says they now have a more vital role to play.
“Under the legislation stakeholders like Council can now have a much more active role in the process for assessing the social impact of new mines in our area,” she told Shift Miner.
“So with Clermont being more than 125 kilometres from the proposed Carmichael mine, we can ask the Coordinator general to consider including it, which is what we have done.
“I know there have been criticisms of the legislation, particularly around its practical implementation, but I am confident about it, and I definitely don't think its set and forget.
“It’s a work in progress, and we are glad we can be more involved in the process.”
There was broad criticism of the SSRCA (and its definitions) when the bill was first proposed in 2016.
The Infrastructure, Planning and Resources Committee (IPRC) which included experienced mining people like Jim Pearce, were concerned that new mines could easily circumvent the legislation by employing a token number of local workers, and by arguing it wasn't safe for workers to drive to work.
“It's recognised that the prohibition of 100% FIFO practices will have limited application, and would not preclude a high percentage of FIFO workers being employed,” the IPRC wrote 12 months ago.
“The IPRC also concedes the bill leaves the door open to 100% FIFO, where the mine's owners can argue that it's just too dangerous for miners to be driving to and from a site after 12 hours on the tools."
And to date, this and many other complex issues remain unresolved.
Consequently, mining companies remain concerned the SSRCA will become a legal monster where the onus of proof - and the bureaucratic burden it implies - will be on the employer.
For example, what happens when an employer chooses a non-local person over a local? They will need to be able to prove the decision wasn't based on where they lived. Otherwise, they could be fined a $1 million.
Also, what happens when a miner decides to relocate away from the Bowen Basin and commute to work to give their kids an educational opportunity, will that put their job at risk?
QRC Chief Executive Ian Macfarlane shared these concerns last year.
"This Bill will add unnecessary extra red-tape to our sector’s operations, and lower the state’s competitiveness, at a time when the industry is rebounding, and more jobs are coming onto the market.
"It is worth noting that of the (nearly) 50 operating coal mines in Queensland, just two were originally designed as 100% FIFO mines.
"These two mines were approved by the previous Labor Bligh Government at a time when the sector was at its peak, and there was an extreme shortage of skilled workers to fill jobs.
"However, since operations began at these two mines, both now use local contractors to service the mines and are therefore no longer 100 per cent FIFO."