Job losses in Western Australia’s booming mining industry are expected to be minimal because of government-imposed vaccine mandates, according to industry groups and the state’s Mines Minister.

Key points:

  • The West Australian government announced in October it would require all resources workers to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine by December 1
  • WA Premier Mark McGowan says resource workers need to be fully vaccinated by January 1
  • More than 149,000 workers were employed in WA’s resources sector during the 2020-21 financial year

WA’s army of fly-in, fly-out workers must have had at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by midnight tonight.

Gold miner Gascoyne Resources, which operates the Dalgaranga gold mine near Mt Magnet, expects to lose just three staff over the vaccine mandates.

Gascoyne’s managing director Simon Lawson said the rest of the gold miner’s 113 staff have been vaccinated.

Other companies contacted by the ABC have indicated similar responses by workers to the government’s vaccine mandate. 

“It’s a very large subset of the population of WA that work FIFO, so you’re going to get a broad range of opinions,” Mr Lawson told ABC Radio Perth.

“I think three out of a workforce of 113 is a pretty small subset that have elected not to proceed.

“A lot of other people believe it’s our duty to the rest of the people in the state to ensure that we don’t create that source of infection and spread it.”

Woman standing with a sign at a protest.

Workers from the Pilbara region’s mining industry are concerned they will lose their jobs.(ABC Pilbara: James Liveris )

Warren Pearce, chief executive of the Perth-based Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, said NSW, Victoria and the Northern Territory had also mandated vaccinations for resource workers.

“The reality is companies have been reaching out to their employees for the past few months, saying ‘this date (December 1) is coming, this is the requirement; you’re going to have to be vaccinated or we can’t keep you working, what do you want to do?’,” he said.

“It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

“We haven’t heard too much that has been massively concerning to us.

“We think most of our workforce will make the jump, albeit some will do it reluctantly, and we’re just trying to make sure those people are supported and make the best-informed decision they can. Obviously, we want them to get vaccinated.”

There have been fears from some mining industry leaders that mandatory vaccination could scare off workers during the current skills shortage.  

Man stands in shirts and jeans on verandah with hands in pockets

Paul Everingham says there is no universal approach to managing employee vaccinations.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

WA Chamber of Minerals and Energy chief executive Paul Everingham said “anecdotal evidence” indicated the majority of the resource sector’s workforce was either already fully vaccinated or in the process of being vaccinated.

“In the case of a worker not vaccinated by December 1, companies will work with them on a case-by-case basis in relation to their role and employment outcomes,” he said.

“There is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach to managing these situations and companies will manage each instance in line with their legislative obligations and employment arrangements with those people.”

Man in suit standing at a public lookout overlooking a large gold mine

Mines Minister Bill Johnston, pictured at the Super Pit, says he is double vaccinated.(ABC Goldfields: Jarrod Lucas)

WA Mines Minister Bill Johnston said there was no indication there will be mass job losses in the resources sector.

“I don’t have any expectation of that,” he said.

“We’re now on a very strong trajectory to get above 90 per cent vaccination.

He said vaccination rates had risen dramatically in the aged care sector, after the government made it mandatory.

Mr Johnston, who is double vaccinated, said that “the only way out of COVID is through vaccination” .

Perth-based mining giant Mineral Resources would not reveal how many of its 5000-strong workforce are being stood down due to the vaccine mandate, describing the situation as “business as usual”.

“By tomorrow, every person at our sites – in Perth and across regional WA – will have been vaccinated in line with the government mandate,” a company spokesman said.

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WA mining industry not fearing mass job losses over mandate
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