Mine workers travel to North despite COVID-19 closures

Coronavirus closures don't prevent mine workers accessing North Queensland

Coronavirus
Robbie Katter is concerned about the welfare of mining communities, with FIFO and DIDO staff still free to travel to and from their workplaces.

Robbie Katter is concerned about the welfare of mining communities, with FIFO and DIDO staff still free to travel to and from their workplaces.

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Strict protocols should be mandated to protect remote Queensland communities from transient mine-workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

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STRICT protocols should be mandated to protect remote Queensland communities from transient mine-workers during the coronavirus pandemic, Traeger MP Robbie Katter says.

Mining is considered by government to be an essential industry in Australia that must be able to continue amid the global crisis.

But Mr Katter said the prevalence of fly-in, fly-out and drive-in, drive-out workers was putting mining communities at risk.

He called for tougher measures which the state government then implemented late this afternoon.

Mr Katter said mining communities were furious that FIFO had been allowed to continue throughout the escalating COVID-19 crisis and at the perceived lack of efforts to safeguard the towns put at risk in the process.

He said the industry's modern-day reliance on FIFO and DIDO workers was exposing otherwise isolated communities to huge risks that could result in catastrophe.

"It is deeply concerning that my office is getting anecdotal reports coming in daily of mine workers flying into site and working with locals, after coming in from all over the country.

"Some mining companies are making some effort to limit the risks, but presumably there is a large variance in quality control between different mine sites.

"There is a growing anger among local residents, such as in Mount Isa, against this practice still being tolerated at all.

"At the very least, these people need to be assured that there are some strict standards being followed by the mining industry."

It comes after Mr Katter called for remote areas of north, north-west and south-west Queensland to be quarantined from the south-east, where the bulk of coronavirus cases have been detected.

Mr Katter said he had voiced his concerns on the issue with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Minister Anthony Lynhman's offices.

However, Dr Lynham late this afternoon said mining companies were being asked to step up their coronavirus protections for FIFO workers, staff in mining camps and remote and regional resource communities.

Dr Lynham said today that all state, territory and national resources ministers had agreed that the resources sector was essential to maintaining a strong Australian economy.

However, he said public safety was paramount.

"However, public safety is our number one priority and we need everyone in the community, in business and in industry to play their part," he said.

"That's why the Queensland Government has been discussing FIFO with resources companies for more than a week, and I've also been talking to the Federal Resources Minister.

"Resource companies have been engaging with the Queensland and Federal Government and are alert to these issues.

"We expect that all companies will continue to improve their operations and constructively engage with stakeholders, including workers and the local councils."

Measures put in place on transport to and from the mines include:

  • avoiding close contact during transport, including reducing the numbers of people travelling on buses and aircraft.
  • thorough cleans between passenger loads getting off, and those getting on
  • temperature testing at airports for passengers boarding aircraft
  • people with symptoms not travelling, and to immediately isolate, and seek medical advice.
  • reducing FIFO and DIDO during the COVID-19 to minimise the mass movement of people.

Measures in place in camps include:

  • infection control in kitchens and food preparation areas.
  • suitable accommodation for self-quarantine
  • maintaining social distancing in camps, including for recreational activities, including outdoor sport
  • limiting movement of workers from camps and into the broader community
  • no more 'hot bedding' to limit contact between employees
  • cleaning each room thoroughly between uses, including changing and washing linen.
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