"We just cant keep up"
Shoe finally on other foot as earthmovers negotiate better deals as business takes off
Wednesday 24 January 2018
After years of stagnation, a Central Queensland earthmoving business says the industry is back in boom territory.
Brett Comiskey, the owner of Comiskey Mining Services which provides wet and dry hire machines and maintenance services to the resources sector, says they are “flat out” - and from what he hears it’s just the beginning.
Mr Comiskey says it started late in 2016, when all of a sudden his phone started ringing off the hook, with requests for quotes and machines.
Today he says there isn’t a machine idle anywhere in Central Queensland.
“Every year we go down to Bathurst, and in 2016 we were sitting in the back of the car and the phone just starting ringing off the hook,” he said.
“We spent the whole weekend in and out of our rooms providing quotes, and at that time we had 18 machines parked up at Baralaba.
“Today we are flat out, and we have gone from 50 to 117 machines, and we just can’t keep up.
“You can’t buy anything; it's listed one day and gone two days later.
“I just had five 793D’s land at the port over the weekend, and within a day we were getting calls about them.”
The change has not come a minute too soon for local mining contractors who have had to weather the steepest downturn in the Basin’s history.
Many businesses failed through that period, and those that survived took casual contracts often at loss-making levels.
“We are now re-negotiating our agreements,” Mr Comiskey said.
“For the first time in three years, we have been able to include minimum weekly hours on our dry hire machines.
“We still have clients on no-minimum contracts from the downturn, and they are saying we helped you through the downturn, you should help us.
“Well I am saying we also helped you, and now that things have changed they are going to have to commit, or the machines will go elsewhere.
“We have all dropped the bullshit and the lifestyle, and this year is looking pretty good.
“But no one picked the first boom or the downturn that followed - we certainly didn’t - but the people I am speaking to are saying that the real boom is going to be the end of 2018 and into 2019.”
However, like numerous other mining-related businesses, Mr Comiskey says the skills crisis is real, and it's their biggest challenge.
“We are struggling to find operators and maintenance people, because lots of them had a gutful of the industry when they were booted out of jobs when the downturn hit,” he said.
“They have relocated their families back to the coast, and they are not willing to come back again, and I can understand that.
“We went from overpopulation to nobody, and that’s starting to affect the price of labour.
“But so far we aren’t seeing contract costs adjusting to reflect that.”