Managing director Paul Flynn said the local workforce would have to be supplemented by specialist contractors, most of whom would work on a fly-in fly-out basis.
“From time to time we will need to rely on FIFO contractors (mainly from NSW) to supplement our local workforce. On an ongoing basis we will always use a contractor component in our operations,” he said.
"This is particularly the case with the development of our Maules Creek mine which will require a workforce of up to 340 full-time equivalent employees and contractors during the 18 month construction phase.
“It would be almost impossible to find this many skilled employees locally for the relatively short time required – and that is where FIFO or DIDO [drive-ion-drive-out] has a role to play.”
As the project moves out of construction and into production Whitehaven plans to transition to a higher proportion of local employment as availability of skilled labour and training capacity allows, according to Flynn.
“We will also be taking into consideration other pressures – such as housing availability.
“Sensible planning provides a win-win to communities and mining companies. By protecting and enhancing the standard of living for our existing communities we are able to attract highly-skilled workers and their families to this region.
“A number of our employees have come back to the region after working elsewhere and see our operations as an opportunity to return to their network of family and friends.”
Current workforce statistics show almost 84% of the company’s employees reside locally, according to the company. This number is consistent with recent years, according to Flynn.
“Whitehaven has always stressed its commitment to developing and maintaining, wherever possible, a locally based workforce,” he said.
“It is extremely important to Whitehaven that our workers live in, and enjoy being part of, the local communities in which we operate – mainly Narrabri, Gunnedah, Boggabri, Quirindi and Werris Creek.
“We want to ensure that the communities in which we operate gain the benefits of us being there. The most tangible way to do this is through long-term stable employment.”
Overall, Whitehaven currently employs more than 600 people in north west NSW and this number is expected to expand to more than 1000 employees in the next five years.
“At times, these large employment numbers will require a fly-in-fly out (FIFO), contractor component – particularly during construction. There is no viable alternative to this combination of employment options,” Flynn said.
“But the underlying intent is to maintain and grow our locally-focussed workforce through bringing people to the region permanently and providing training to locals.”
Since commencing production in 2010 Whitehaven’s Narrabri mine has employed almost 60 trainee inexperienced tradespersons and operators under its “cleanskins” program. These people are either local, or have moved to the region permanently as a result of their employment.
The number of inexperienced people who can be introduced into the mine is restricted by the number of experienced people available to provide close personal supervision for the twelve months it takes to train people up to a satisfactory safety standard.
“We are extremely proud of this record at our Narrabri mine and will continue to train local people and provide the opportunity for long-term employment in this region,” Flynn said.
Whitehaven currently employs 10 full-time apprentices and four school-based apprentices.
Whitehaven also has three students receiving the Whitehaven Scholarship in the fields of mechanical engineering, geotechnical engineering and geology.
Young, local people also benefit through Whitehaven’s ongoing cadet and traineeship programs, according to the company.