BHP and Rio Tinto not enthusiastic about hiring foreign workers

BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto won’t be following Australia’s richest person and number four on the list of the world of mining's billionaires Gina Rinehart’s plan to import foreign workers under enterprise migration agreements (EMAs), reports The Australian.

BHP said instead it preferred to hire local workers, but it was also being hurt by the lack of skilled workers:

"Although we currently do not source overseas workers through EMAs, we are operating in a very tight labour market and have more job vacancies than we can fill," it said.

The company told The Australian its shortages were particularly severe in the Pilbara and Bowen Basin.

Rio Tinto didn’t make any comments on EMAs, but as The Australian publishes, it has not applied for the scheme and currently does not plan to. Instead, the miner continues with its recruitment initiative, launched in April.  Rio expects to fill 6,000 vacancies across its 30 operations in Australia in what has been considered the largest such campaign in the country’s history.

Last Friday, Australia’s government gave Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting approval to bring 1,700 foreign workers to the Roy Hill project in the Pilbara.

In a statement, Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said that, while the community justifiably wanted to ensure Australians had the first go at job opportunities presented by the mining boom, skilled migrants were critical to getting these projects off the ground.

The decision to grant first ever right to hire foreign workers has sparked heated critics by local unions and the mining community.