A rare slant on FIFO work

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Northern Minerals’ Browns Range project site.
Camera IconNorthern Minerals’ Browns Range project site. Credit: Jakeb Waddell

Workers at a world-first rare earths mine in the East Kimberley are being encouraged to move to fly in and fly out of Broome.

Northern Minerals is operating a pilot plant at its Browns Range site, 150km from Halls Creek, to test the scope of rare heavy earth mineral production in the area and has 65 full-time employees on-site.

The company aims to build a processing plant 10 times its current size and would hire up to 1000 workers during construction, plus about 170 long-term positions.

NM chairman Colin McCavana, below, said staff were being incentivised to fly in and fly out of Broome, rather than Perth, by paying to move employees and their families to the Kimberley town and offering ongoing pay packages.

He said NM also paid Perth-based workers the projected cost of a Broome to Perth return airfare to spend rest breaks in the town.

“We have a couple of families that have already taken advantage of this, but expect there would be far more as we look to increase the project’s capacity,” he said. “From the very first exploration step of this project, we have employed locally and we are continuing that.”

Member for Durack Melissa Price said she had been impressed by the vision of NM regarding the Browns Range project.

“They are doing everything they can to encourage locals to get training and work there,” she said.

“But also to get people to Perth to relocate to Broome to try and build a good capability locally. They’re doing a really good job.”

The Brown Range plant cost $700 million and is halfway into its three-year pilot stage.

Mr McCavana said it would cost a projected $400 million to expand the plant. NM last month opened an on-site training facility to help improve the employability of members of the Ringer Soak community, 50km from the mine. NM has pledged to have a 20 per cent indigenous workforce.

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