When establishing a mine, owners often must face the fact that the best areas for mining are far from the best for living in. Workers are reluctant to condemn their families to spend months living where there is little in the way of entertainment or comfortable lodgings. The mining company also wishes to avoid the costs attendant to setting up a mining community for those family members.
The answer is the fly-in fly-out mining operation. Instead of the workers living at the site, they fly out to the site, spend their workdays there, and fly back home at the end of their weekly shift. While at the mine, they can focus on their job, without worrying about how the family is doing. Meanwhile, the rest of their family can live in a permanent community rather than a temporary mining camp.
While this may seem strange at the first glance, it is no different from businesspersons who choose to commute by business jet from their homes in Southern California, to their jobs in San Francisco. In both cases, the use of aircraft allows the employee to decouple of the question of where they work from where they live.
This is especially important in Western Australia, a state that includes vast expanses of land that is unsuitable for permanent mining towns to support mining sites. By using the fly-in fly-out technique, family members can live and work in the more hospitable and urbanized coastal regions like Perth, without being forced to endure long separation from those who work at the mines.
However, being a fly-in fly-out worker doesn’t mean that the company doesn’t care about working conditions. Far from it! Many mining sites include swimming pools, comfortable, air-conditioned living units, and entertainment centres for the use of the workers. Cafeteria style dining provides tasty and healthy meals for the workers once they come off shift. While not suitable for families, these camps are far from barren.
So what fly-in fly-out mining amounts to is a system that saves money for the company, improves working conditions for the miners, and allows their families to enjoy the comforts of an urban home while staying in contact with their loved ones. It may seem odd to imagine miners taking advantage of the same service high executives do when they get on their commuter flights, but for miner and company alike, the benefits are clear.