Australia’s Minister for Immigration and Citizenship Chris Bowen announced in late May 2012 approval by the Australian government of its first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA), granted to the Roy Hill iron ore project in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. EMAs are custom-designed, project-specific migration agreements designed to ensure that skills shortages do not create constraints on major projects. They are available to resource projects with capital expenditures of more than A$2 billion and a peak workforce of more than 1,500 workers. To be approved for an EMA, projects also must develop a comprehensive training plan, demonstrating how the project will invest in the training of Australians to meet future skill needs in the resources sector.

The Roy Hill project is being developed by Hancock Prospecting and a three-company consortium that includes POSCO, Marubeni Corp. and STX Corp (E&MJ, May 2012, p. 16). The project is designed to produce 55 million mt/y (wet) of premium quality iron ore lumps and fines at full production.

“The government’s first priority is always ensuring jobs for Australian workers, but there is a need for temporary workers to help keep our economy strong,” Bowen said. “With more than 8,000 workers required during the construction phase of the Roy Hill project, there simply aren’t enough people in the local workforce to get the job done.” When Australians cannot be found to fill positions, the EMA allows Roy Hill to sponsor up to 1,715 workers for the three-year project construction phase.

“As part of the EMA, Roy Hill will provide up to 2,000 training places for Australians. This includes places for more than 200 Australian apprentices and trainees, as well as preparing over 100 Indigenous Australians to work in the construction industry,” Bowen said.

The EMA also sets out protections to ensure that foreign workers are only recruited after genuine efforts to first employ Australians and that visa holders engaged on the project receive the same wages and conditions as their Australian counterparts. The government will ensure that visa holders are aware of their workplace rights and obligations through a specific induction program, as well as having information available in writing, online and through video presentations.

Australia’s Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said, “We need Enterprise Migration Agreements to cut red tape for very large resources projects such as Roy Hill, which have a very strong demand for labor. EMAs address one of the biggest risks to many of these projects, which is inadequate supply of labor and skills in the short-term construction phase.”