Australia’s government announced Friday it will allow a new mine to hire about 1,700 foreign workers to alleviate a labour shortage threatening the resources boom.
Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen, said the government’s first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) had been granted to the $9.3 billion Roy Hill iron ore mining project, part-owned by the country’s richest person and the world’s wealthiest woman Gina Rinehart.
In a statement, 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 government’s first priority is always ensuring jobs for Australian workers, but there is a need for temporary workers to help keep our economy strong,” Bowen said.
“With more than 8,000 workers required during the construction phase of the Roy Hill project, there simply aren’t enough people in the local workforce to get the job done,” he added.
Australian authorities believe these types of agreements will address one of the biggest risks to many resources projects – the inadequate supply of labour and skills in the short-term construction phase.
Under the EMA approved Friday, Roy Hill will provide up to 2000 training places for Australians. This includes places for more than 200 Australian apprentices and trainees, as well as preparing over 100 foreigners to work in the construction industry.
The minister said the EMA also sets out protections to ensure that foreign workers are only recruited after genuine efforts to first employ Australians, and that visa holders engaged on the project receive the same wages and conditions as their Australian counterparts.
Major miners, such as Rio Tinto, have taken the bull by the horns and launched their own recruitment initiatives earlier this year. In April, for instance, Rio started an aggressive recruitment campaign to fill 6,000 vacancies across its 30 operations in Australia, which is considered the largest such campaign in the country’s history.
MINING.com published in January an article about the reasons why, before jumping on the next plane, mining professionals should take the mining jobs boom in Down Under with pinch of salt.