CH mining ramping up

A MASSIVE $22 billion will be invested into new and developing mining projects in the Central Highlands and further west over the next four years.

That equates to about $1000 for every Australian.

Sixteen coal projects in the Central Highlands will be funded by $5.9 billion.

A juggernaut $16 billion will fund five massive Galilee Basin projects. Add that to a decent share of a $16.6 billion investment in gas and you have the outlook for a region facing the imminent challenges of rapid growth in one sector.

All projects are expected to be finished by 2015, some sooner.

The challenge is to keep up with the growth and preserve the lifestyle enjoyed by many, Central Highlands Development Corporation general manager Sandra Hobbs said.

“We are looking at how we go about maintaining the existing way of life enjoyed here,” she said.

“How we plan to meet the needs of the people living here, to keep it a family orientated community where people want to live and raise a family.

“We have learnt from other communities that have been through similar things about the need to plan for the future.”

Handled badly, and the Highlands will see increased pressure on infrastructure and services, further increases in house prices in a market already suffering from an affordability crisis, more pressure on the lack of skilled and labour workforce and the furthering of a patchwork economy.

“Small businesses that aren’t involved in the mines will possibly miss out on the benefits and could have a difficult time retaining and attracting staff,” CHDC regional development officer Sherry Smith said.

“There is an argument to say there is already a patchwork economy in place here now.”

Mrs Hobbs said the CHDC have a number of initiatives in place to help small businesses who are struggling to retain or attract employees.

Physical job advertising boards with a “local focus” will be placed in Highland towns advertising vacant positions free of charge, she said.

“We hope to focus on a different target group, possibly those who aren’t necessarily looking for a job… maybe travellers passing through who wish to stay a little longer.

“We are conducting a consultation process to develop a workforce response strategy, looking at how the region can better attract people to respond to current job vacancies.”

Mrs Smith said there are a number of potential benefits if the community grows alongside the booming industry.

“Hopefully there will be flow-on economic benefits felt throughout the region, such as those involved in the supply chain,” she said.

“A growth in population leads to a growth in demand, and its about making sure we lobby the right people to get what we need to maintain the lifestyle enjoyed here.”

There is the possibility for further economic contribution by the mines in the community and the increase in infrastructure and available services, she said.

There is no doubt there will be a lot more resource sector employment opportunities as a result of these new projects.

The notables:

Togara North Underground - $800 million estimate.

Yamala Underground - $350 million estimate.

Carmichael open-cut and underground - $4.1 billion estimate.

China First open-cut and underground - $4 billion estimate.

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