Reaching over the FIFO fence

THE BIG STORY: When the debate concerning the effects of Fly In Fly Out on regional communities is raised mining companies often look like the bad guys.

Silver Lake Resources is supporting the expansion of the company’s Murchison project by having a 250 man camp built in the town of Cue.

The company has struck a good relationship with the local community, which is just as excited as the company about the benefits the new camp can bring to the town.

Silver Lake Resources is anticipating commencing mining at its $65 million 1.9 million ounce Murchison project in the March 2013 quarter sourcing ore from across 14 open pits and four underground deposits.

The company is spending $35 to $40 million on Murchison’s processing capability and a further $25 million on pre-production mine capital to generate an 8 to 10 year underground and open pit mine life at a minimum 100,000 ounces a year.

None of that is too far out of the ordinary, however Silver Lake has made a conscious decision to utilise many of the services the local community offers rather than isolate its Fly In Fly Out force from the local townsfolk.


Many mines require thier workforce to be accommodated in remote locations.

“The logic behind that was that if we build the camp in town, then any business activity that brings along with it, the town gets,” Silver Lake Resources executive director Chris Banasik told The Roadhouse.

“We’re not going to have a shop in the camp, we’re not going to have a wet mess; so if the workers want a drink they have to go to the local pub, or if they want a choc-milk they will go to the local shop.”

Building the camp in Cue, positions Silver Lake within four kilometres of the town’s airport and only 25 kilometres from its mine site.

The idea creates a symbiotic relationship between the miner and the town as the new camp will not involve the cost of installing a wet mess or other similar facilities and its workers can be easily transported from the airport to the camp to the project.

They payoff for the town is that local businesses should be able to grow with the new business the mine generates for them.

“It would be great if we could generate enough business, such that tradespeople would be encouraged to move back into the town,” Banasik said.

“I hope that the extra number of people based in the town will mean that health services will improve.

“While we can’t force people to live in the town at least we can provide enough of an excuse for people to go and participate in the local economy.

“Hopefully that is something we can do that will add a bit of vibrancy to the town.”

The establishment of a FIFO camp within, or close to, a regional centre can often be problematic, especially if the two entities are walled off from each other and not encouraged to associate with one another.

Shire of Cue acting chief executive officer John Read told The Roadhouse the local council has always been supportive of the mining camp being situated in town and encourages the company to become an active participant in the community.

“The town of Cue will welcome these workers very much into the community and we would encourage them to utilise the services and facilities here,” Read said.

Read outlined plans for parts of the camp to be made available for public use.

“For example one of the directors of NT Link, who are building the camp, took me over to the village the other day and one of the buildings he showed me was a substantial building that will be a gym,” he said.

“He told me that will be available for members of the community, the general public, to utilise, if they wish.”

When Silver Lake takes up full capacity of the new camp of 250 it will effectively double the population of Cue.

Even now while NT Link is constructing the camp the town is already feeling the effects of a substantial increase of usage at the airport, which has gone from catering two flights a week to two flights a day.

The local Shire has already demonstrated a realisation of the need to keep ahead of the FIFO phenomenon beyond that of the state’s capital city Perth with the commencement of an upgrading to the facilities at the airport.

“We are widening and resealing the airport road from the Great Northern Highway in town to the airport,” Read explained.

“We are also resealing and extending the apron area and taxi way at the airport.

“And we are extending the sealed area of the apron to almost twice its present size to accommodate two parked aircraft at any one time as the current apron only has room to accommodate one.

“We are also about to take delivery, in a couple of months, of a brand new pre-fabricated airport terminal building.”

Aircraft traffic is not the only area the Shire of Cue has experienced a surge with the growth in the town’s population set to increase the volume of rubbish that will need to be collected.

“So next financial year we have budgeted to purchase a new rubbish truck with compaction facilities,” Read explained.

“Of course our rubbish tip will also be catering, not only for the increased population based rubbish, but also for commercial rubbish from the Silver Lake mine and other mining activity in the area.

“So we are going to have to employ a part-time rubbish tip manager to better manage it because the volume of rubbish is set to triple, at least.”

There can be no doubt Silver Lake Resources has approached the idea of ensuring its FIFO workforce integrating with the local community of Cue with the intention of bringing a great deal of new business to the town, which it will.

However beneficial such a process, put in place in any mining region by any mining company, will be for individual businesses, it will always place some heat on the ability of the local councils to bring their communities up to speed.

“Silver Lake’s decision to have its workforce located in the town site of Cue is appreciated by the Shire,” Read said.

“But at the same time while it benefits businesses in the town the Shire itself – this growth has caused considerable capital expenditure on our part.”