The boss of Gina Rinehart’s multi-billion dollar Roy Hill iron ore project has backed away from the use of foreign workers on 457 visas.
By national resources reporter Sue Lannin, ABC News:
Barry Fitzgerald says the economy has slowed down and the project may no longer need to employ overseas workers under a Federal Government agreement set up last year.
Mr Fitzgerald was speaking at a suppliers’ briefing in Perth last night that was attended by nearly 2,000 contractors.
There was controversy when the Federal Government granted Roy Hill the first Enterprise Migration Agreement, allowing it to hire just over 1,700 overseas workers on 457 visas to work on construction.
Mr Fitzgerald told the briefing more than 8,000 workers will be needed to construct the Pilbara mine, as well as railway and port facilities.
“We want to award all of the contracts by the end of June. That will give us certainty,” he said.
But Mr Fitzgerald believes he may no longer need to look overseas.
“When we started this project some years ago, the market was a lot warmer and at that time we needed to be able to demonstrate that we had an opportunity to manage the risk of not being able to get experienced, capable resources. So we signed up and started the EMA process,” he said.
“Since that time things have moved on. We are now confident that we will in fact secure the bulk of our workforce, or our contractors will, through the Australian labour market.”
However, Mr Fitzgerald says if the economy improves the Enterprise Migration Agreement may be still be required.
“It still is a risk mitigation. If things pick up then we may well need it again.”
While Prime Minister Julia Gillard held a fundraiser in Fremantle, the Federal Resources Minister Gary Gray, was on hand at the Roy Hill briefing.
“This project isn’t just important to Western Australia; it’s important to our nation,” he said.
Mining is expected to start in 2014 and the first iron ore shipments are slated for 2015.
But Roy Hill is still trying to finalise the funding of the project.
Barry Fitzgerald says progress is being made.
“We are quietly confident that we will get there and we continue to make progress and we continue to get resolution of the issues that are there,” he said.
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