Dugald River operator MMG is working to increase housing stock in the Cloncurry area in a bid to attract and retain a larger locally-based workforce.
MMG Dugald River general manager Sam Rodda said the company had signed an MOU with Cloncurry Shire Council to look into potential housing development projects.
“What we have said to them is that for us to attract and maintain a larger local workforce we need Cloncurry to be a residential mining town of choice,” Mr Rodda said.
“Part of the challenge we’ve had with younger people in particular in getting them to live locally is the lack of quality housing available.
“If (Cloncurry Shire Council) opens up more land for a developer, MMG will look at long-term housing options to secure that corporate investment in those houses.”
With an expected mine life of 20 years-plus, MMG Dugald River was in it for the long haul and recognised the importance of developing that partnership with the local council, he said.
The Dugald River mine and processing operation, 65km north-west of Cloncurry, employs 500-550 people, with 300-350 on site at any time.
Dugald River has been performing well for MMG since coming online in late 2017 and subsequently moving into commercial production last May.
Mr Rodda said it had completed its first full calendar year of operation above the market guidance for production, with an output of 147,320 tonnes of zinc in zinc concentrate and just under 17,000 tonnes of lead in lead concentrate
With the ramp-up to full production complete, among the biggest challenges the operation faces is attracting and retaining staff in the face of a sector-wide skills crunch.
As well as working with the council on the local housing front, the company has tweaked its rosters for a more appealing work-life balance.
Mr Rodda said Dugald River had changed roster panels for its surface operations and fixed plant crews to an 8/6 and 7/7 pattern, rather than two weeks on followed by one week off.
That means personnel working eight days on day shift, followed by six days off, and seven days on night shift, followed by a seven-day break.
“With the uplift in the resources industry, the challenge is to attract and retain qualified, experienced personnel,” Mr Rodda said.
The company is also tackling the issue from the ground up, with a traineeship and apprenticeship program focusing on Native Title partners the Kalkadoon people, other regional Aboriginal groups and local Cloncurry residents.
Mr Rodda said the program had already recruited three people and the company was aiming for an annual intake of 10 such apprentices or trainees throughout the life of the mine.
“It’s about ramping that up and establishing that as a clear path to development for local indigenous people,” he said.