Bluff camp a sign of confidence
DESPITE community concerns, miner hoping camp will provide opportunities for business.
Wednesday 20 April 2016
A NEW multi-million dollar state of the art accommodation facility - complete with restaurant and canteen - on the outskirts of Bluff is scheduled to open in the next week following a final Council inspection.
The facility was built by nearby coal miner the Jellinbah Group, to house around 200 workers, and will rank among the best-equipped mining camps in Central Queensland.
While the significant investment might seem poorly timed - given the pessimism in the sector at the moment - Jellinbah General Manager Ian Cooper says it provides an accommodation option for its workforce over the next twenty years.
“This is not a new facility for an expanded workforce; it's there for our existing workers,” he told Shift Miner.
“I realise it’s bad timing with so many houses vacant in Blackwater and Bluff, but this has been in planning since 2010 when we first got development approval.
“It has taken a long time to get to this point, and over that time we have had to renegotiate with five or six people at council just to get water on - because people have moved on or changed jobs.
“The housing situation in our nearby communities moves up and down, and this just gives us an alternative when things get tight again.”
Some people within the nearby communities of Blackwater and Bluff have been calling for a moratorium on all new camps in the region.
Their complaint has been that FIFO and DIDO workers living in the camps are killing local communities, because they are not bringing their family to live in the region, which is needed if small mining communities are to survive.
According to Jellinbah, about 45 percent of its workforce come from the Central Highlands, with the remainder from the broader Central Queensland region. Despite the new complex, Jellinbah says it will continue to rent about 30 homes in Blackwater for its staff.
It is also taking steps to address a particular concern that the shop and restaurant at the new camp will kill-off the one or two shops that are still surviving in Bluff.
“Yes we are concerned about this,” Mr Cooper said.
“Again this project was approved at a time when things were very different on the Central Highlands, but we are trying to do everything we can to provide local opportunities.
“Our catering company is under instruction to buy locally wherever it is possible, and we are exploring ways of making our facilities, like the gym and restaurant available to people in Bluff.
“We have an account at the general store in Bluff, and that will continue.”
Despite some of the local social issues, the new camp represents an undeniable vote of confidence in the future of coal mining in Central Queensland - at a time when it is needed.
“At the current rate of production the Jellinbah Mine has a life of 20 years,”Mr Cooper added
“It is very hard to know the future, but we think the steel-making coal we produce will be less susceptible to replacement by alternatives like thermal coal might be.
“Countries will start building again, and they need steelmaking coal to do that.”