Newcrest Mining, Australia`s largest gold miner, is sourcing fly-in fly-out workers directly from the east coast for its remote Telfer mine in Western Australia, bypassing Perth.
The move heralds a new phase in the mining industry’s approach to hiring staff as the commodities boom rolls on and the skills shortage deepens.
Workers can now base themselves on the eastern seaboard without having to relocate to Perth.
Newcrest confirmed it charters two 100-seater aircraft from Alliance Airlines twice a week between Brisbane, Orange and the Telfer gold mine in northern WA.
Alliance chief executive officer Scott McMillan said large resources companies were beginning to recruit mining workers in bigger regional cities, such as Orange in NSW.
“We are seeing the start of a trend where some of the larger mining houses will recruit in some of the smaller cities on the eastern seaboard and fly them direct into various mines in WA,” Mr McMillan said.
“That will be a new style of fly-in fly-out.”
Plans to recruit for mining jobsáin NSW, Qld and Victoria
He also said plans were under way to recruit workers in areas of higher unemployment in NSW, Queensland and Victoria.
However, Mr McMillan is worried that flying people across the country may not be sustainable, given Australia’s limited pool of labour.
“There is no doubt there is going to be more and more people flying from the eastern part of Australia to the western part,” he said.
“But I think the challenge for everyone involved is that it’s not as if there’s a huge amount of surplus labour sitting around on the eastern side of Australia.”
Charter airlines vying for fly-in fly-out
Despite the obstacles, several charter airlines are vying for a piece of the lucrative fly-in fly-out market, which has traditionally operated out of Perth.
Sky West Airlines now operates flights between Melbourne and the resources hub of Kalgoorlie in WA.
Meanwhile, Qantas last year purchased Network Aviation, a fly-in fly-out specialist, in a bid to capture a big chunk of the growing market.
Strategic Airlines launched its Brisbane to Port Hedland service last year.
In WA, unemployment is running at 4.3 per cent and wages are soaring.
But some policymakers are concerned the rise of direct flights to mine sites from the east coast could weaken Perth’s dominance as an air traffic hub.
6,000 engineers jobs for Gorgon and Browse
Linfox Logistics chief executive Michael Byrne recently told a business lunch that the Gorgon and Browse projects in north-western Australia would soon require 6,000 engineers, while highlighting the anomaly of six-figure wages in WA.
Short-order cooks can earn $140,000 per year, while truck drivers make up to $180,000.
The nation’s two biggest miners, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, remain tight-lipped about any potential recruitment plans for eastern Australia.