Mining camps create “hot boxes of crime”
A LEADING Brisbane academic and award-winning criminologist has compared Queensland mine worker accommodation to detention centres, gulags and concentration camps.
Queensland University of Technology School of Justice head Professor Kerry Carrington's research with colleagues into the mining industry won the year's top honour from the Society of Criminology last week.
Her three-year-study - The Resource Boom's Underbelly - explored how construction and mining camps in Queensland and Western Australia created "hot boxes of crime".
The research was also submitted to the Parliamentary Inquiry on fly-in, fly-out workers.
It is a claim questioned by the state mining industry's peak body, the Queensland Resources Council.
Following her return from the ceremony in New Zealand, Prof Carrington said Western Australia was the worst offender - but Queensland was starting to follow suit.
"When you're in a camp and you're not part of the community, you create hot boxes of crime - breeding groups for alcohol-related abuse.
"You create markets for illicit drugs, especially designer drugs because they bypass testing.
"This is not the fault of individuals, it's the conditions they are put in.
"Whether we are talking about refugee camps, gulags or concentration camps, you're taking people away from their normal lives.
"Obviously, a concentration camp is an extreme example."
Prof Carrington said not all camps matched this description, with plenty resembling luxury resorts with pools, gyms and activities.
But some camps, particularly for those workers building the mines and infrastructure, were less like home and more like prisons, she said.
She used examples of a camp in Blackwater and another in Pilbara where they were found to have been built illegally.
"There is a real hierarchy in the camps," she said.
"At the very bottom of the heap are detention centres converted to camps.
"There is a huge variation."
QRC research - done by URS - surveyed almost 1000 "non-resident" mine workers on their accommodation.
QRC chief executive Michael Roche said the results found 80% of mine workers were satisfied with the standards.
Mr Roche is speaking for camps housing mine workers, not necessarily those building these projects.
He said out of 2300 locals and non-locals across the state, almost two-thirds said they were content with their living arrangements.
"Queensland resource companies have great incentive beyond mandatory building codes to offer superior accommodation options and ensure they can attract and retain the best people," he said.
He said workers have made clear they want the option to choose where they live or work or they would leave the industry.