Australia to welcome short-term miners

Australia to welcome short-term miners

CANBERRA - Reuters
Australia to welcome short-term miners

Truck climb out of an iron ore mine at Tom Price, about 1,300 kilometers north of Perth. REUTERS photo

Australia will open its booming natural resources sector to short-term foreign workers for the first time under a new immigration scheme aimed at easing a chronic labor shortage that has sent wages, and companies’ costs, soaring.

Australia’s economy is riding high on strong demand for its natural bounty from the world’s biggest commodities consumer China and other markets.

 At a time of global economic gloom, immigrants are flocking to Australia’s mines and oilfields. The Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) announced on May 25 specifically clears the way for resources companies to use foreign workers to develop major projects as they struggle to find skilled laborers.
The EMA allows companies with projects worth more than Ausie $2 billion to recruit skilled workers from overseas on fixed contracts. The first deal was granted to mining magnate Gina Rinehart’s Aussie $9.5 billion Roy Hill iron ore project, in the remote Pilbara region of northwestern Australia, under which her company, Hancock Prospecting, will bring in 1,715 construction workers for a three-year period. “There is no doubt the Roy Hill Project is one of national significance,” Immigration Minister Chris Bowen told the National Press Club, adding that workers brought in under the EMA will have the same workplace rights as Australians.

With a population of 22 million and unemployment at 4.9 percent, Australia does not have the skilled workforce to exploit its enormous metals and energy reserves quickly enough to satisfy its major customers. The government estimates the resources industry will need an extra 89,000 workers by 2016.