Move to import workers for Hunter mines

A MAJOR Hunter coal company is scouring the United Kingdom for skilled underground mineworkers as the resources boom continues to create thousands of jobs in the region.

And the ‘‘fly-in, fly-out’’ or FIFO model of employment is gaining a growing foothold in NSW, with the Maules Creek and Boggabri mines set to bring in as many as 1500 construction workers as they race to build their mines in time to beat a feared international downturn.

Union officials say these construction workers could easily earn $140,000 a year building the Maules Creek and Boggabri open-cuts, which will be next door to each other in the Leard State Forest about 400 kilometres by rail from the Newcastle coal-loaders.

In a modern version of the mass arrivals of mineworkers from the British Isles in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Nathan Tinkler-backed Whitehaven Coal is recruiting from the UK.

Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said the company he helped create was committed to supporting local workers where possible, but international recruitment and FIFO hirings had a role.

‘‘There are a number of underground coalmines in the UK which have uncertain futures, and some of the people who could potentially be affected are prepared to live in and become part of our local community,’’ Mr Haggarty said.

‘‘We are still looking to hire a significant number of people and hopefully we will be able to fill a large number of these roles with people who live locally.’’

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union construction division organiser Peter Harris said construction work at Maules Creek and Boggabri was set to begin from August.

Mr Harris said each mine would have its own camp, and each worker would have their own room. He said a typical construction roster was two weeks on and a week off.

The construction industry was based on a 36-hour week with two rostered days off a month, meaning that penalty rates and various allowances pushed typical earnings in the industry to $140,000 or more.

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