Back to the boom time

Exclusive, Daniel EmersonThe West Australian
VideoMark McGowan announced BHP is taking in more apprentices in 2018.

It was a return to boom time in the Pilbara yesterday when Mark McGowan was on hand to witness 1.43 million tonnes of rock blasted into rubble at BHP’s Mt Whaleback iron ore mine.

The Premier was in Newman to welcome a boom in trainees and apprentices in the miner’s iron ore operations as BHP announced positions would double to 200 next year.

The intake would build on 300 existing positions.

All but about 10 per cent are expected to be filled by applicants from the north of the State, with a focus on high schools in Newman and Port Hedland.

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BHP iron ore asset president Edgar Basto said the company’s target was for one in five of the new positions to go to indigenous applicants.

“It’s great for the local community, it’s great for us. We are training future generations,” he said.

Mr McGowan said the company’s announcement was another sign of the State’s economic recovery.

In April, Rio Tinto announced 1000 extra construction jobs on its new Pilbara mines, including Silvergrass, West Angelas and Yandicoogina.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of WA this week declared WA “88 per cent of the way down the business investment cliff” and tipped the domestic economy to grow in the second half of this financial year after contracting 15 per cent since late 2013.

Mr McGowan said he told major mining companies after his March election win that he wanted to see more traineeships and apprenticeships, partly as a way to heal wounds opened by the WA Nationals’ mining tax debate.

“I think that will ensure that there is greater buy-in by West Australians into the mining industry and will hopefully head off future mad schemes like ripping up State Agreement Acts,” he said.

“Most importantly of all, it provides training, job opportunities for young West Australians to get those high-paying, highly skilled jobs of the future.”

Third-year heavy diesel apprentice Dylan Indich said the work was often hot, oily and dirty, but a springboard to a positive career.

“Most of us do it for our families, to stay in the town that we grew up in,” he said.

Yesterday’s blast at 11.39am was the result of weeks of planning by mining engineers at Mt Whaleback, the world’s biggest iron ore mine.

More than 900 holes, 12m deep and 256mm in diameter, were packed with 370 tonnes of ammonia nitrate to clear a road for infrastructure.

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