Mount Isa Mayor Joyce McCulloch is calling on the region’s mines to shift to a locally based workforce to avoid the extra risk of FIFO and DIDO workers bringing COVID-19 into the area.
But she is critical of those using the pandemic to push a broader political agenda against FIFO.
Cr McCulloch, chair of the Local Disaster Management Group, said FIFO (fly-in-fly-out) operations had been identified as high risk for the coronavirus entering the community.
Queensland closed its state border on Thursday morning to restrict the movement of people from interstate and the spread of coronavirus. The state has exempted FIFO workers in mining and other industries.
“While our government is telling us not to go out to cafes and to work from home if we can, we are still flying in workers by the plane load – it just seems ludicrous,” Cr McCulloch said.
“Glencore have told the community that they are checking the health of workers before they leave their home destination, but why even take the risk? Let’s protect the people who live in the mining community year-round.”
She said the problem was not confined to FIFO workers – as there were also many DIDO (drive-in, drive-out) workers coming to the North West from the coastal centres of Townsville and Cairns.
“So it is a mass concern and how is that being regulated by the mines to ensure the health and safety of the community? It’s a really difficult one for them to have to regulate,” Cr McCulloch said.
With the majority of the workforce for the Mount Isa mines being local, she said they were being asked to see if their operations could be sustained by that local component.
It comes after Isaac Regional Council Mayor Anne Baker also called on all stakeholders to play their part to secure a localised workforce model in the local coalfields.
And Member for Traeger Robbie Katter this week warned that the mining industry would be ‘picking up the pieces’ of its social licence to operate in regional and remote areas of Queensland if it did not do more to avoid the spread of COVID-19.