Gina Rinehart gets a lot of bad publicity and suffers from our "tall poppy syndrome" - off with her head. It could be because she's the richest woman in the world, yet refuses to release an inheritance her father left her four adult children or it could be just green-eyed jealousy, she's got it and we haven't. And when she said she was going to bring in 1700 foreign workers for her Roy Hill mine, we thought she was doing it to save money by paying them less and doing Aussies out of a job.
But Ms Rinehart says her main focus is giving Australians jobs and the figures are pretty convincing. There was plenty of work on offer at her $9.5 billion Roy Hill mine, but not enough Aussies responded to positions available in the remote, hot area of the Pilbara. Job turnover is very high so she decided to build a dream village with first-class facilities that will attract and keep good workers on the job.
She's bringing in 1715 temporary foreign workers to help build her dream that will take three years to complete. Workers will spend four weeks at Roy Hill and fly to Perth for a week off with the same pay and conditions as local construction workers. Another 6,785 Australians will work on construction and there will be 200 training places. Roy Hill will also employ 2,000 local workers for the next twenty years. That's pretty impressive and the size of the project is mind boggling with so much work to be done.
Dongas in Port Hedland caravan park 2009
She intends to build an airport within nine months that will take passenger jets up to 737 in size. Remote rail gangs will build 340 kilometres of rail line to carry 55 million tonnes of iron ore every year from the mine to Port Hedland where a new port will be built. GPS will control the driverless rail trucks.
The WA Chamber of Commerce said very few workers in the eastern states took up opportunities in WA mines. A recent federal government $9000 relocation grant attracted only 496 people to move to WA for work, and just 48 people from the eastern states. A Chamber spokesman said "WA is the growth area of the economy and there are some fantastic opportunities for interstate workers to come to a dynamic and growing state that welcomes skilled workers with open arms."
Skilled foreign workers already working in WA mines come from UK, Ireland, The Philippines, US, India, South Africa, China and Canada. This year, the WA mining industry will need almost 120,000 workers and the Pilbara will need an extra 34,000. A fly-in fly-out welder can earn $100,000-$140,000 a year, an engineer $125,000-170,000 and a manager $280,000-$285,000.
Gone are the old "dongas" or dog boxes workers had to put up with in the old days. Right now Roy Hill has an impressive bar with spectacular views over the Chichester Range and rooms have flatscreen TVs, Foxtel and ensuite bathroom. There is also a well equipped gym and the dining room is stocked with fresh fruit and salads.
If you have ever been to that part of our country, you know the problem, you couldn't possibly live there. But if Ms Rinehart and other big miners want to create a comfortable oasis in the desert, who knows what the future holds for this massive industry that keeps our economy ticking along so very nicely.