Back in 2011, was the last time workers flew in from all over Australia and abroad to earn the big money on Western Australia’s iron ore mines. Companies were offering ridiculous wages and conditions.
But when the mining boom ended and the music stopped playing in 2015, the workers moved on.
Fast forward to 2018 and the iron ore game is again ramping up, but poaching the workers needed might not be as easy this time around.
“We’re already seeing a bidding war in certain occupations and skill sets,” BIS Oxford Economics senior economist Adrian Hart said.
“The mistake NSW and Victoria have made is that they assumed Western Australia and Queensland would remain weak for many years, but we’re starting to see recovery in WA and Queensland.
“That means it’s going to be tougher all round for NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland to secure skills going forward.”
The rapid turnaround in fortunes in the jobs market is largely due to BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group building new mines — all at the same time. This will require about 6,000 construction workers
While the level of investment does not match the height of the mining boom, everyone deciding to build at the same time is exactly what happened last time, and this tends to lead to a bidding war for workers.
“They’re very large projects, they’re all underway at the moment and that will really flow through over the next 18 months,” Katana Asset Management’s Romano Sala Tenna said.
“We’re also starting to see some other projects coming through from Lithium and new players, which is a new boost for this state.”
WA is home to massive lithium deposits, now in huge demand for use in batteries for electric cars and home power storage devices.
Just two years ago it was considered a fringe commodity, but now it is the hottest commodity of the planet.
“This is a new frontier for WA,” Tianqi Lithium Australia general manager Phil Thick said.
“This is a first in this industry and our plant has sort of set the scene for other companies to look at doing the same.”
Mr Thick said the company tried to employ local people where possible, but there were challenges.
“It is an ageing workforce down here in Kwinana so we have to work with education, with the schools, with apprenticeships and keep that supply chain coming through for the right people with the right skills,” he said.
The first sign the market is moving is when job ads start increasing. Job advertisements on website SEEK, have jumped 40 per cent between March to May this year compared to the same time in 2017.
“I think the first area we’ll see some shortages is certainly in mining construction jobs, they’re quite a specific skills set so you need people who have got that level of expertise and certainly mining engineers as well,” Mr Sala Tenna said.
To get the workers back, companies will again have to offer high salaries or re-enter the controversial debate about overseas workers.
Bidding war begins as WA once again searches for workers to fuel a mining boom https://t.co/CbwjZta3LU
— Harcourts APG (@HarcourtsAPG) July 11, 2018
— Donna preston (@geekonline) July 11, 2018