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Why BHP needs a mining camp with a three-storey cafe and cross-fit gym

BHP is banking on a $150 million mining camp to even out bumps in the fly-in, fly-out operation and smooth the way to its target of gender balance at a giant new iron ore mine in Western Australia’s rugged Pilbara.

That’s why it has built a three-storey cafe, a cross-fit gym, a 3000-book library, a kitchen just for cooking masterclasses and a virtual golf course at the mining camp attached to the $US3.6 billion South Flank project.

Poulia Jamieson, an eight-year veteran of FIFO, said she had never felt more at home on a mine site which helped even out the transition when she did swing back to her family.

“They have come a long way and in terms of the workforce and mental health issues it has been a big boost,” she said.

BHP boss of WA iron ore Edgar Basto said the company was happy to be raising the bar on mining camps as a way to increase diversity and improve the mental health of its workforce.

The Mulla Mulla camp is the flashiest BHP has built by a wide margin and complements what will be the biggest annual production and most high-tech, autonomous iron ore mine it has developed.

South Flank project manager Simon Thomas calls it a mining village, not a camp. It has some 2500 rooms, a swimming pool, squash court, inflatable outdoor cinema, sports field and big green lawns as well as other features you don’t expect to see out in rock and spinifex country.

Mulla Mulla is 120 kilometres from the nearest town and 1300 kilometres from Perth, but Mr Thomas said the concept was to make it seem not so far away from home for workers mostly drawn from the city and WA’s big country centres further south.

Mr Thomas said workers were being asked to come to work in a remote area where they could feel disconnected from home life or normal social patterns.

“What we look to do is generate a sense of connection to what would be their normal life,” he said. “In this case, design facilities that would represent as much of the diverse spectrum that you have in communities. How do we mimic what they would see as normal community-based facilities?”

What BHP has done is try to offer them as many of the recreational and social options it can at a mining camp expected to have a 600-strong workforce when in production. Read more…

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