Union tells BHP: buy lo­cal steel

The West Australian - - WEST BUSINESS - Sean Smith

The Aus­tralian Man­u­fac­tur­ing Work­ers Union has fired a warn­ing shot at BHP as the union seeks to se­cure ma­jor steel work for lo­cal fab­ri­ca­tors from the miner’s next Pil­bara mine.

The AMWU fears as much as 24,000 tonnes of struc­tural steel work linked to BHP’s proposed $US3.6 bil­lion ($4.8 bil­lion) South Flank project will be sent to off­shore man­u­fac­tur­ers.

The union has put the com­pany on no­tice and called on Premier Mark McGowan to “re­mind” BHP of “its obli­ga­tion to pri­ori­tise WA jobs”.

“If we don’t get this work through our fab­ri­ca­tion in­dus­try, what work are we go­ing to get,” AMWU State sec­re­tary Steve McCart­ney said.

He says South Flank will pro­vide the first real test of Mr McGowan’s post-elec­tion call for big re­source de­vel­op­ment con­tracts to sup­port lo­cal sup­pli­ers even if the work can some­times be done cheaper else­where.

“We want the Gov­ern­ment to stand up for lo­cal con­tent,” Mr McCart­ney said.

The BHP board has still to give the go-ahead to South Flank, 130km north-west of New­man, and no steel fab­ri­ca­tion con­tracts have yet been awarded. “The South Flank project is still sub­ject to in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal ap­provals,” it said.

How­ever, the group also noted that of the $US184 mil­lion of ini­tial fund­ing al­ready ap­proved for South Flank, al­most $US168 mil­lion had been awarded to Aus­tralian com­pa­nies, 94 per cent of them in WA.

Lo­cal man­u­fac­tur­ers have lost out on big re­sources con­tracts in the past, but Mr McCart­ney said the South Flank work was eas­ily within WA’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

“We can do this on our ear in WA,” he said.

“There’s plenty of boil­er­mak­ers out of work, (and) there’s plenty of com­pa­nies that need the work.

“And if you’re go­ing to take a one-off re­source out of the ground, then you should be value-adding to it some­where along the line.”

Mr McCart­ney said based on past con­tracts, 24,000 tonnes of steel work could em­ploy as many as 2000 work­ers and cre­ate new ap­pren­tice­ships.

First ore from South Flank, which will re­place BHP’s de­plet­ing Yandi ore body, is due by 2021. The project is ex­pected to be sub­mit­ted for board ap­proval by the end of June.

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