WA resources companies are considering quarantine bubbles for FIFO workers. Image by Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS

Health

WA miners plan virus quarantine ‘bubbles’

2020-07-22 14:43:22

Western Australia’s resources sector is contemplating on-site COVID-19 quarantine hubs as it turns to Queensland and South Australia for fly-in fly-out workers.

With very few people from virus-stricken Victoria and NSW now able to obtain exemptions to travel to WA, the sector is looking to other states for specialist workers.

Chamber of Minerals and Energy of WA director Rob Carruthers says mining and oil and gas companies are largely able to fill roles locally, but have to search further afield for certain skills involving shutdowns and commissioning. 

Some scheduled work that has been put off for months cannot be deferred any longer, Mr Carruthers says, and resources companies are now considering quarantine bubbles as they prepare for a long period of restrictions.

Many have the capacity to manage quarantine with their own accommodation facilities and chartered aircraft.

“If it is really specialist work that’s going on in particular areas of the site, perhaps they can isolate that area and those workers from the rest of the workforce,” Mr Carruthers told Network 10.

But Premier Mark McGowan says he’s “not keen” on the idea.

“The FIFO workforce from the east, I think it’s time that ended,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

“I understand FIFO from Perth to a mine site, if there’s no town nearby, but I don’t understand FIFO from Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane. 

“We need to come to a new arrangement.” 

Thousands of FIFO workers who regularly travel to WA have made it their temporary home, some with their families, and there was a recent rush from Victoria and NSW before restrictions for arrivals from those states tightened.

Mr McGowan wants them to make the move permanent while the sector does its utmost to hire as many West Australians as possible.

Seventeen cases remain active in the state after a third straight day of no new cases. 

More than 100 days have passed since WA’s last confirmed community transmission.

While interstate borders remain closed, there was strong intrastate tourism during the school holidays.

The state government has announced discounted flights to Broome and Kununurra in the far-north Kimberley region, starting at $199 and $229 one-way, respectively.