Glencore has officially announced it will move to a seven-day roster for most of its employees at the Mount Isa Mine in north-west Queensland.

Key points:

  • Glencore Australia is set to introduce a week-on, week-off roster for Mount Isa Mine workers
  • Critics say changing from the current four-day roster will spur an increase in FIFO workers
  • Glencore says the change is crucial to increase productivity

The move was flagged by the Swiss multinational back in October and “after extensive consultation” the new roster will be implemented at the mine in late February, 2022.

The announcement has raised alarm bells among some members of the mining community, who say the change from a four-day roster to the seven-day work week will encourage a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) lifestyle.

Glencore said the decision would increase mine productivity and allow employees to move between the Mount Isa Copper Operation (MICO) and the neighbouring George Fisher Mine more easily.

“From late February, workers on the primary roster at our Mount Isa Copper Operations will move to a seven days on/seven days off roster in line with the George Fisher Mine, which has been successfully operating on the schedule for several years,” a statement from the company read.

“The change will improve work/life balance for our MICO employees in a number of ways, including having every second weekend off. It also allows us to more easily transfer workers between the two sites to improve productivity.”

Aerial view of Mount Isa mines.

The seven days on, seven days off roster will start in late February.(ABC News: Harriet Tatham)

Concern for FIFO, DIDO increase

While some members of the community have welcomed the change, others fear the roster will encourage a FIFO and drive-in, drive-out (DIDO) lifestyle for employees.

Member for Traeger Robbie Katter said the FIFO, DIDO work structure meant mine employees and their families would be taking their dollars and time away from the community.

“This increase in FIFO, already a blight on our region, will impact every corner of our community, from the local businesses to school enrolment numbers to funding for local services including our hospital and so on.”

A man wearing a suit jacket and a cowboy hat stands at a lookout with mining stacks in the background

Member for Traegar Robbie Katter says he’s dismayed by the decision.(Supplied: Robbie Katter’s office)

Long-time Mount Isa resident Kim Coghlan said FIFO, DIDO employment would see families relocating away from the town.

“I was involved with talks with the management at the George Fisher Mine, when it moved to a seven on seven off. I could name 10 to 15 families that made the decision within the first 12 months to relocate away from the community.

“And I believe the same thing will happen with the Mount Isa mine,” Ms Coghlan said.

A large stack can be seen in the distance, towering over the town of Mount Isa

Some community members are concerned Mount Isa could become a “ghost town” as a result of FIFO, DIDO workers.(Supplied: Mount Isa Mines)

Meanwhile, the fact that Glencore does not pay for its workers to travel to and from the area has been considered a significant deterrent to the take up of FIFO and DIDO work.

Others believe the seven-day work week offers a more family-friendly lifestyle for parents who are able to spend more time in the community due to the longer break.

“The four-on-four-off roster is tough because you get a string of weekends where you’re working and a string of weekends where you’re not.

“This way you get every second week off. It will be good for sports too in that way.”

The future of Mount Isa Mines

Glencore has stated that one of the main reasons for the shift in work structure is to increase the productivity of its copper operations as the availability of ore depletes.

The company has previously said it would not commit to the future of the mine beyond 2027.

“We’ve been mining using a method called stoping for the last 40 years and we’ve taken all the available ore in the ore body using that method,” said chief operating officer for Glencore’s copper assets, Matt O’Neill.

“We have started up Black Rock Cave – a sub-level cave, which is actually operating quite well.

“The Black Rock project will allow us to study if this method of mining will be viable for continuing operations into the future,” he said.

Concerns FIFO will ‘devastate’ mining town as Glencore shifts to seven-day roster
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