WHITEHAVEN Coal is targeting an 80 per cent local workforce for its proposed Vickery and Maules Creek coal projects, eliminating the need for a large contingent of fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workers.
The company’s environmental impact statement for the Vickery project went on public exhibition this week, outlining plans for an open-cut mine 25km north of Gunnedah.
The proposed mine will extract up to 4.5 million tonnes of coal a year for 30 years, with plans to begin production in 2015-16.
The proposal is a redevelopment of the previous Vickery mine, which operated in the 1990s and closed in 1996.
Whitehaven bought that property off Rio Tinto in 2010 and added the Vickery South project next door with the acquisition of Coalworks in July last year.
Whitehaven Coal managing director Tony Haggerty told the Namoi Valley Independent the company had a desire to minimise FIFO workers in the region, with a focus on recruiting and retaining local employees.
Whitehaven’s operations, which include Rocglen, Tarrawonga and Narrabri Underground, include a workforce of 650 – 75 per cent of whom reside in the local area.
The majority of FIFO workers are based at Narrabri, where specialist skills are required in some areas.
“The skills for underground mining are different from open-cut,” Mr Haggerty said.
“Being the only underground mine in the region, it wasn’t possible for a homegrown workforce on day one.
“We’ve made good progress on training people over the last few years and we’re steadily replacing our fly-in, fly-out workforce with a local workforce.”
Mr Haggarty said there would be a period, in particular during the construction phase for its mining projects, when there would be a need for FIFO workers with specific skills sets, because people couldn’t be sourced locally.
Once the mines are up and running, Whitehaven will be targeting “homegrown” workers.
“Once we’re in a steady state, we’d expect to have the majority of operators living locally and sourced locally. There’s plenty of opportunities as well when we’re recruiting,” Mr Haggerty said.