Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Charter flights up, up and away as mining boom intensifies

Aviation and Mining Services director Paul O'Brien. 
Picture: Tim Marsden

THE fly-in-fly-out phenomenon is set to boom if the first few weeks of the year are any indication.

Fast food companies in Gladstone and other regional towns are even looking at fly-in and fly-out - or FIFO as it is known - to fill vital staff positions and major miners are starting flights from Queensland coastal towns and beach resorts.

At the same time mining companies are commissioning companies to build runways in isolated destinations to ensure workers are taken to and from work with minimal disruption.

"Inquiries for charter aircraft to mining operations have gone crazy in the first two weeks of 2012 and it's not just for flights from Brisbane," Aviation and Mining Services director Paul O'Brien said.

He said the Sunshine Coast was getting its fair share of charters. Rio this week starts four charter flights a week from there to Clermont, with more to follow. "With cheap beachside housing and short flying times to mines in both the Bowen and Galilee basins, the Sunshine Coast is becoming the attractive proposition for workers and mining companies alike."

Charter flights to Bowen Basin towns such as Moranbah, Clermont and Middlemount have been popular for some time but now regular charter flights have also opened up into Alpha, in the Galilee Basin.

The Sunshine Coast FIFO move also explains the recent purchase by Clive Palmer of the Coolum Hyatt Regency resort.

The FIFO trend also comes as Gina Rinehart, Mr Palmer and companies such as GVK and Indian coal giant Adani open up the Galilee and Alpha.

Mr O'Brien said his company was also working with Whitsunday Regional Council on a fly-in-fly-out strategy from Bowen and Proserpine into the Bowen and Galilee basins.

Whitsunday Coast Airport general manager Scott Waters said FIFO was a growing market and a great boon to the region hard hit by Cyclone Yasi and the general tourism slump. "The upgrade of Abbot Point and the fact that more mines are coming on stream at Collinsville is a great driver for the future," Mr Waters said.

Mr O'Brien said mining companies today were looking for a holistic solution from the mine to the bus, plane, hotel or home.

"It is about a complete logistical solution," he said.

"Mining companies also monitor the fatigue factor in terms of staff getting to and from the mine camps."

To that end Lachlan Broadfoot, Salva Resources chief executive, is poised to take a major stake in AVMIN, which charters aircraft from nine-seaters to 75-seaters.

Salva was voted the ninth-fastest-growing company in 2011 by business publication BRW. It is an international company providing services to miners in the Bowen and Galilee basins, with numerous operations around the state.

"The use of AVMIN's logistic solutions has enabled us to save our client's money and the big bonus being the reduced time lost through wasted travel hours," Mr Broadfoot said of Aviation and Mining Services.

"Having AVMIN able to provide a one-stop shop of air, land and accommodation services ensures our focus remains on our core business."

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