The state of Western Australia announced on Wednesday it would require all employees that work in the natural resources sector to have a first covid-19 shot before December.
Premier Mark McGowan said the requirement would apply to about 141,000 people, including fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) and other workers in mining, exploration, oil and gas, and resources sites.
He said the rule would also apply to any visitors to mines or oil and petroleum operations in hopes of helping protect vulnerable Indigenous communities as the country begins to open up.
Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Johnston said the sector has always stressed the importance of health and safety and that this was no different.
“This is about workers protecting themselves, their colleagues and their workplaces and communities they operate in,” Johnston said.
He noted that those who choose not to receive the vaccinations will be asked to seek employment elsewhere.
Western Australia, which produces more than half of the world’s iron ore and close to 40% of its lithium, is home to the world’s largest mining companies —BHP and Rio Tinto, as well as other top miners including Fortescue Metals, Newcrest Mining, Roy Hill Holdings, South32, Albemarle and Newmont Australia.
Paul Everingham, chief executive of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy of Western Australia said members and the workforce “supported” the move.
“Australia is a democratic country, you do have a right to not get vaccinated, and that’s your own free right,” Everingham told ABC Radio News. “But with freedom comes personal responsibility, and with freedom doesn’t come the right to impose your illness on other people.”
Australia closed its borders to international arrivals in March 2020. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last week flights abroad would resume next month, but only for vaccinated citizens and permanent residents.
Foreign tourists won’t be welcomed back to Australia until at least 2022, Morrison said on Tuesday. The country, which continues to battle outbreaks, will instead prioritize the return of skilled migrants and students.