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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Moranbah - Queensland Coal Mining Boom Town

Bob and Megan Mills and their children

There is plenty of work to be had and good money to be made if you are prepared to travel to the harsh, hot spots of Australia. Our mining boom has helped many enterprising young people prepared to suffer for a few years, set themselves up for life.

Moranbah is a coal-mining town jumping out of its skin in the middle of nowhere between Mackay and Clermont in Queensland. As coal production swings into high gear, BHP Billiton subsidiary BMA have put forward a proposal for up to 100 per cent fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforce which will be based in a work camp for its proposed Caval Ridge mine.

The Mills family think the life will be sucked out of their town if this proposal goes ahead. Megan Mills and her family moved to Moranbah from Toowoomba because her husband could no longer live as a FIFO worker and they enjoy living in their peaceful little town. But they worry it will end up like WA’s Pilbara region where 78 per cent of the money earned is spent elsewhere.

Central Queensland’s non-resident workforce has grown rapidly with around 15,000 workers (about 40% of the population) now living in temporary accommodation, often in aluminium “dongas” in crowded work camps. So it’s easy to see why the family man who doesn’t want to be separated from his family would move to the town permanently and the money he earns mining the black gold is spent in his town.

Mayor Cedric Marshall says the work camps in the region do very little for the local economy, they don't even buy their produce locally. Moranbah is now Queensland’s most expensive place to live because of the severe accommodation shortage. The money might be good but the workers pay a high price for it - being separated from loved ones, long shifts and for the drive-in drive-out workers, they have to spend two to three hours on the road to get home after their fortnightly rosters and road accidents are common. They take the long drive to save paying soaring rents which now rival those in the Pilbara. So the permanent residents of Moranbah want to make sure their town will benefit from the boom and 300 locals attended a rally protesting a proposal to lift the FIFO workforce from 70% to 100%. So what does BHP have to say about it?

"The fly-in, fly-out workforce proposal at the Caval Ridge mine provides necessary flexibility and choice for employees," the spokeswoman said. "Local jobs will not only be maintained but will continue to grow with the proposed growth."