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WA mines

Scarlett

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I figure there must be some people amongst this group who know these kind of details, maybe due to being in the FIFO game, or having been. Certainly there seems an over abundance of rock loving types... they've probably spent some time out there.

Anyway, I've noticed the morning explosion of QF, QQ and VA flights out of PER and then back again of an afternoon, to and from the mine sites. And it's got me wondering:

How many people work at those kind of sites to justify building a new sealed airstrip?
How many people generally change over shift each day?
Is it all FIFO, or do some workers live locally near mine sites?
Is there no cooperation between the major companies; ie: BHP, Fortescue and whomever else all run completely separate operations: separate airstrips, separate rail lines etc?

I think on FR24 there were 4 or 5 other airstrips/minesites in pretty close proximity to Newman which seemed overkill: will a mine just not attract sufficient workers unless it has its own airstrip and charter flights.

I knew WA Pilbara and Gascoyne mining was big, but just hadn't reckoned on there being so many strips and so many flights!

If those in the know about such operations are allowed to give any details I'd be keen to learn a little more.

TIA,
Scarlett
 

Daver6

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I'm pretty confident that a lot of them aren't sealed airstrips. So I'd imagine that's a massive cost reduction right there.

You also need to keep in mind that what might look like close proximity on a map can easily be several hundred kms and unsealed roads. So using Newman as an example, if the company then needs to move a plan load of stay 200kms, you're looking at probably another three hours of ages each way for each swing. Given how much these people earn, I'd imagine that adds up pretty quickly to justify flying direct to site.
 

Scarlett

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All of the airstrips around Newman (and I guess the Gascoyne) region do seem to be sealed strips, based on a quick Google Maps viewing. I had assumed they'd be sealed to be F100 / B737 / A320 capable.

The point about remote travel distances is very valid.
 

oz_mark

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All of the airstrips around Newman (and I guess the Gascoyne) region do seem to be sealed strips, based on a quick Google Maps viewing. I had assumed they'd be sealed to be F100 / B737 / A320 capable.

The point about remote travel distances is very valid.

If you take Cloudbreak, for example, in the scheme of things it may be close to Newman, but it's still a two hour drive from Newman airport.
 

RooFlyer

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How many people work at those kind of sites to justify building a new sealed airstrip?
How many people generally change over shift each day?
Is it all FIFO, or do some workers live locally near mine sites?
Is there no cooperation between the major companies; ie: BHP, Fortescue and whomever else all run completely separate operations: separate airstrips, separate rail lines etc?

There is no straightforward answer to those questions, mainly because the size of the FIFO workforces are so variable, and distance from Perth. The shifts worked are also variable - a mix of 8, 10, 12 hours I guess; blue collar and white collar. I'm sure there would still be some on multi-day shifts overnighting on site; say 12 hours on, 12 off, maybe working 12-14 days on, a week off. So not everyone arriving on the morning plane would leave on the evening one. Perhaps a minority FIFO the same day? I'm not even sure if the remote NW mines in WA have a daily commute? I would expect some management to live on site, working 14/7 ???

The old model for remote mine sites was that a 'singleman's quarters' would be built on the edge of a small town - a collection of dongas with a contractor mess hall and maybe some basic amenities and staff houses built. Everyone lived on site. When I worked on a WA mine, many years ago, that was the situation. There was a lot of drinking and hard to keep good workers for any length of time.

As you observe, these days the companies mainly elect to FIFO their workers - it gives people a better home life, the workforce is more stable and reliable. You still have a single person's camp, with contractor run mess for those staying multi-days but often these days its a dry camp. I guess sealed Vs unsealed airstrips would be a function of the size of plane needed - the size of the operation.

I'm sure the various companies would share an airstrip if they could, but rail (and port facilities) are a different kettle of fish. They are a hugely expensive, strategic asset. Why would you give a competitor a leg up? But I think competition law has come into play and I think there is some forcing of sharing. Not sure on that one.
 

Cessna 180

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All the strips in the Iron Triangle that take RPT out of Perth are sealed and a minimum of 2000 meters.
Suitable for F100/717/320/737 all though, often not at max weight. I can think of at least ten such strips.

As my travel to that region has been curtailed due Covid, things may have changed a little. However, most strips are busiest TUE/WED/THU, with a bit on Mon and Fri and and the skies are almost empty on the weekend. The airwaves are extremely busy on these mornings and any of these strips can have three or four jet services one after the other. Most do a quick turn around with some seeming to do a day waste.

As others have mentioned, a distance of 100km adds an hour each way on a bus so I suppose the economies of scale, time = money and so on come in to play.

The companies all seem to run their own show. The numbers of employees at each site justify this. Again, being close to work, accommodation and food supplied equals an efficient work force.

Towns like Newman, Tom Price, Hedland and Karratha are pushing to get more people living locally. A bit of a mix of FIFO and locals. Like everywhere, life is what you make it and about the people around one as much as the location. All these towns have the same services one would expect in any suburban location, just perhaps on a smaller scale.
 
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cosi

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Quick comments:

  1. Take off slots 5am-7am at Perth airport is FULL with majority traffic of FIFO planes.
  2. Lots of flights are also 717
  3. Flight up takes the new staff who then go straight to work, if the airstrip is close to the mine site.
  4. I have one friend who has a 7 hour bus ride from the local airport to the camp site, because they are prospecting in a particular area where there is no strip/
  5. Flight back bring the staff who have just come off night duty.
  6. The rotations are known as swings.
  7. There is always are a shortage of FIFO workers e.g dump truck drivers, geologists etc.
  8. The company who has chartered the flight, also is responsible for the passenger booking.
  9. I understand there is currently about 6,000-7,000 FIFO workers.
  10. Besides mining, you also have oil and gas FIFO's
 
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