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Mining companies turn to resort-style living to lure workers in Australia

September 24, 2021

As a way to attract more skilled workers to Australia’s remote mining sites some of the leading iron ore mining companies are beginning to offer resort-style accommodations for the fly-in, fly-out workforce.

Bloomberg reported that some sites, such as Mineral Resources Ltd.’s Ashburton iron ore hub that will open around mid 2023, will feature comforts such as Olympic-sized swimming pools, virtual golf arcades and fine dining. Mineral Resources Ltd.’s Ashburton iron ore hub will include a queen-sized bed, kitchen and lounge areas. And to overcome the strains of working remotely, a full-time mental health consultant will be on hand.

“We want to figure out how to make sure we keep the people that are working for us with us until they retire,” the company’s chief executive, Chris Ellison, said.

BHP Group’s South Flank, which started production in June, features a worker village with a pool, tennis and squash courts, an indoor golf range and a range of bars and restaurants.

And Rio Tinto Group is seeking workers for its $2.6 billion Gudai-Darri project, due to start early next year, promising them comfortable living and high-speed connectivity at a site where workers will “genuinely respect each other.”

“We’re trying to soften the sites down to attract a more diverse workforce,” Ellison said.

Iron ore is responsible for about a third of Australia’s export revenue, or a record A$152 billion ($110 billion) in the year to June 30. while the industry employs around 280,000 people.

A recent report showed Western Australia’s resources industry needs to attract as many as 40,000 extra workers over the next two years or risk delays and potential postponement of some A$140 billion in projects. That challenge has been further complicated by the state’s border closures to keep out Covid-19, while workers are also often headhunted to work in high-skilled industries such as tech and finance, despite being offered wages around double the national average at the mines.

For Mineral Resources, it’s not only about attracting and keeping the best workers: Ellison says it’s just as important to provide a safe and comfortable environment which supports the mental well-being of employees. The company is breaking the mold by planning to build accommodation to suit couples and families, seeking to get them to permanently reside and play an active part in the local community.

Still, the bulk of Western Australia’s mining-site workforce is destined to remain tied to their homes and families based hundreds of miles away, and from whom they need to remain physically distanced from for sometimes weeks at a time. Mineral Resources’ head of mental health, Chris Harris, said fly-in, fly-out workers suffered twice as much psychological distress as other Australian workers.

“Some of those challenges are just the nature of sector,” Harris said. “The question is: how do we support people to navigate those challenges?”

 

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