THE world's biggest coal miner and exporter is looking at the Sunshine Coast to be the home for hundreds of its workers.
But we have to move quickly.
Councils across Queensland are bidding for the business that will be created by mining expansion. BMA - the mining arm of business giant BHP-Billiton - has announced it plans to operate a 100% fly-in, fly-out service for its Caval Ridge mine in Central Queensland.
A BMA spokeswoman said yesterday that the company was assessing a number of regional centres as a possible source of skilled labour for the mine.
However, if the Coast is to remain in the race, airport services will come under scrutiny, and the Sunshine Coast Council must become more involved.
BMA is looking hard at Cairns and North Queensland, the Sunshine Coast, the Gold Coast and Toowoomba, as well as Brisbane.
"These regions are areas of high skills availability and, in some cases, higher unemployment," the spokeswoman said.
"The assessment of regional sources for the fly-in, fly-out workforce includes feasibility, labour availability, practicality and impacts on communities of sourcing the fly-in, fly-out workforce from one or more of these centres."
Gold Coast mayor Ron Clarke has said his council was on the verge of finalising a deal with mining companies which could have 2000 workers flying out of its airport each week.
UDIA Sunshine Coast president Frazer Dean said he had been urging Sunshine Coast Council to consider a similar proposal for months.
"I don't like to bag them, but it's like pulling teeth," Mr Dean said.
"We need things to happen now."
Councillor Lew Brennan, who has the economic portfolio, said the council was involved in discussions with several mining companies.
But the council was still in the process of surveying people to discover thoughts on flights north from the Sunshine Coast.
"The mining sector will provide a positive contribution to the economy over the next 50 years," Cr Brennan said.
Queensland Resource Council CEO Michael Roche said the council should take a leaf out of the book of other councils.
"Some councils are actively wooing the mining companies. Take Cairns - they are flying a range of industry people in to show what they can offer. They are unashamedly bidding for this business."
The resource sector is already providing a substantial boost to the Sunshine Coast economy.
Mr Roche said the resource sector in 2009-10 employed 377 people from the Coast with pay packets "just under $50 million".
"That averages at $130,000 a person," he said.
Mr Roche said the Coast was not just attracting wages. He said the mining sector generated well over $150 million in goods and services to resources companies.
ABOUT CAVAL RIDGE MINE
$4 billion coal mining project
Near Moranbah, south-west of Mackay
The new mine will create about 500 fly-in, fly-out jobs
Less than 70% of the combined new workforce will be fly-in, fly-out
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