Miners drive airport terminal expansion plan
ADELAIDE Airport Limited is drawing up plans for an additional terminal to cope with the rapid expansion of fly-in fly-out workers at the state’s mines.
Last financial year, 157,000 passenger movements were recorded from the two main operators of services to Olympic Dam, Moomba and Prominent Hill.
Alliance Airlines and Cobham/National Jet are the two main players in the contract movement of workers. There is also an apparent increase in domestic passenger movements with major airlines as workers in other capital cities commute to South Australia.
Alliance and Cobham declined to talk on the record about their number of flights or passengers, but conceded that estimates of movements this year are even higher.
“Adelaide Airport Ltd is considering a potential expansion of the main terminal, T1, by adding further air bridges and expanding the number of gates capable of catering for regional, domestic and international traffic,” AAL managing director Mark Young said in response to Indaily’s inquiries.
“Within its proposed expansion, AAL is considering improvements to its internal configuration to suit the requirements for seamless transfer of fly-in fly-out (FIFO) personnel.”
Indaily understands a second set of plans for a separate (FIFO) terminal is being drawn up.
The increasing numbers of passenger movements is a trend evident across the mining sector.
“While most companies prefer a local workforce, there are key factors in the strong trend towards fly-in fly-out,” said SA Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel.
“For some mines, FIFO is the only option.
“Prominent Hill, Beverley and Honeymoon are all mines that are of a size and estimated life that means it’s not viable to build a local township.
“At other mines – including Olympic Dam – there are some interesting trends where workers who live there are now asking for the FIFO option.”
Kuchel said that as staff recruitment became more difficult for the mining companies, workers and contractors were finding themselves in a strong bargaining position.
“We are now seeing cases where more experienced staff are able to dictate their terms.
“They might have been living locally at the mine for 10 years, but as their children get older they have different priorities.
“So the worker flies in and out while the family lives in Adelaide or Brisbane or whichever city they choose.”
Modern technology also means the loneliness of two weeks on and two weeks off can be reduced by communication technology.
“Because mining companies supply everything from flat-screen TV to broadband internet these days, a worker can finish their day and sit down with Skype and talk to the family,” Kuchel said.
“Remoteness has a new meaning in 2012.”
The numbers of mining workers at Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth airports is evident every day.
In the airport lounges, the suits have been replaced by hi-viz jackets and casually dressed blokes in their 20s and 30s.
Engineers, machinery operators and contractors – male and female, but predominantly male – they are providing a business boom for the aviation industry.
Alliance is the biggest fly-in fly-out aircraft charter operator in Australia. Its headquarters and maintenance hangar are located at Brisbane Airport, with major bases in Townsville, Perth and Adelaide.
Alliance operates the Fokker 100 Twinjet in a 100-seat, all-economy-class configuration, the Fokker 70 long-range Twinjet in a 75-seat all-economy configuration and the Fokker 50 turboprop aircraft in a 52-seat, all-economy configuration.
The latest additions to its fleet, the Alliance F70s, are being introduced to cater for the rapid expansion evident in the resources sector.
“It’s hard to keep count – it feels like there’s a new one coming out of the hangar every day,” Alliance’s Nicky Clarke told Indaily.
Alliance runs direct services from the east coast to WA mine sites, bypassing Perth and ensuring savings in both costs and journey times.
It is a trend that is likely to be repeated when the Olympic Dam expansion goes ahead, with BHP’s plans including an airport that can handle the biggest passenger jets.
In Queensland, where the number of mining workers has expanded from 20,000 10 years ago to 60,000 now, companies say three-quarters of the additional workers are non-resident workers, either driving in and driving out or flying in, flying out. The Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta is building a dedicated fly-in fly-out terminal to service mining companies.
Kuchel said the trend to FIFO was inevitable, but Olympic Dam would continue to source most of its workforce from the Roxby Downs township.
“This is a mine that’s big enough to be able to build a township that’s got everything you need.
“Most workers will prefer that option.
“But having the FIFO option means that it will be easier to recruit staff.”