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Exclusive FIFO staffing at Queensland mines draws flak from Australian minister

BHP Billiton Group's and Mitsubishi Corp.'s decision to exclusively staff its Daunia and Caval Ridge coal mines near Moranbah in Queensland with fly-in fly-out, or FIFO, workers at the expense of local communities drew criticism from Australia's Resources Minister Matthew Canavan, The Australian Financial Review reported Dec. 11.

Some existing 100% FIFO mines in the state were a "bad look" given their proximity to communities, he said.

"They are not a good look when you have a mine just outside Moranbah which is a reasonable-sized town and you effectively tell the people in Moranbah 'don't bother applying for a job,'" the minister noted.

Canavan added that he has heard several reports about people having to lie where they reside just to secure a job.

The remarks suggest that the FIFO strategy at Daunia and Caval Ridge is out of favor at the state and federal level, as the Queensland government proposed a bill that would ban new mines being wholly staffed by FIFO workers if it lies within 100 kilometers of a regional community.

The bill, however, will not affect the two sites as it will be retrospective against mines that have already passed an environmental impact process.

BHP has previously defended its FIFO policy at Daunia and Caval Ridge, noting that the policy was adopted during the mining boom when there was a skilled worker and affordable accommodation shortage in the Queensland coalfields.

Meanwhile, Canavan showed support for Adani Enterprises Ltd.'s plan to mostly use FIFO workers at its Carmichael coal project, given there are no major towns within 100 kilometers of the site in the Galilee Basin.