Regional WA benefits from Rio Tinto's FIFO program

Rio Tinto superindtendent community engagement Justin Francesconi and Busselton Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jodie Richards.
Rio Tinto superindtendent community engagement Justin Francesconi and Busselton Chamber of Commerce and Industry Jodie Richards.

Rio Tinto's fly-in fly-out program continues to deliver significant economic benefits for regional towns in WA through stable employment and higher spending on goods and services with local businesses.

In 2018, $93.1 million was contributed to the South West as a result of the program, which was reported as the largest economic impact, accounting for 47 per cent of Rio Tinto's total regional economic spend.

Research also highlighted an increase in regional jobs as a result of higher spending in the regions. The flow-on effect of this saw 601 jobs supported in the South West for the year.

According to a report by ACIL Allen Consulting, Rio Tinto's regional FIFO program delivered an estimated economic contribution of $199.4 million to regional towns outside of the Pilbara and Perth last year, an increase of $14.7 million since the previous report in 2016.

A growing regional workforce of more than 2,230 delivered an increase in spending in regional WA to $547.9 million in 2018, which was made up of purchases from vendors, credit card payments, airport charges, community investments and wages.

The economic contribution of the company's regional FIFO program and regional spending by Rio Tinto also supported an additional 1,269 local jobs in regional WA.

The report estimated that for every three regional FIFO workers, one additional job in the regional economy was supported.

Rio Tinto's regional FIFO program provides direct charters from seven regional towns - Broome, Busselton, Carnarvon, Exmouth, Derby, Geraldton and Albany - to eight of the company's mining operations in the Pilbara.

Rio Tinto Iron Ore chief executive Chris Salisbury said their FIFO program continued to deliver for regional economies in WA by providing jobs, supporting businesses through spending on goods and services, and by supporting local community groups.

"We are proud to be contributing to these increasingly vibrant regional communities by helping to share the employment and economic benefits of Rio Tinto's world-class iron ore operations in the Pilbara across the state," he said.

Each year Rio Tinto engaged with many partners in activities and programs to deliver real and lasting benefits to communities around WA.

In a report, Rio Tinto's annual review of community investment programs, Celebrating WA Communities, noted the company's contribution of $19.7 million to more than 163 community programs across the state last year, and a further $4.2 million of in-kind support.

Highlights from 2018 included the arrival of the first Pilatus PC-24 Rio Tinto Life Flight Jets - made possible through Rio Tinto's commitment of $10 million over four years to the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

More recently, the company's partnership with the WA Government and South Metropolitan TAFE successfully delivered Australia's first nationally recognised qualifications in automation.

Rio Tinto's $120,000 three year partnership with the Busselton Chamber of Commerce and Industry supported more than 1,500 volunteers at the Busselton Ironman.

In 2018, four local governments including the City of Busselton were provided with $65,000 to support a youth development officer.

Their role is to develop inclusive activities to engage youth through school holiday programs and weekend events that provide life skills and leadership development and support networks in the community.

BCCI chief executive officer Jodie Richards said Rio Tinto had such a strong focus on community involvement,

"Rio do not just take people out of a town to go work on mine sites, they actually give back to the community," she said.

"FIFO has the potential to cause social issues in a community with one parent being away, children are left with the other parent, who effectively becomes a single parent.

"There are a lot of implications which come with that, Rio Tinto really take care of their workers.

"They contribute not only to the economy by the employment aspect, but also encouraged youth involvement, traineeships, apprenticeships and training people for the future.

"When people are going away and earning good money they are coming back to the regions and spending it here and that is really important.

"They are also big supporters of the Chamber of Commerce, which allows us to be able to support businesses as well."

Ms Richards said often the other parent in a FIFO family worked due to the cost of living, and often they worked in small businesses or started their own business.

"The FIFO workforce and small business are very closely related," she said.