The pros and cons of living in a mining community

the pros and cons

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of living in a remote mining town?

A job in the mining industry quite often comes with a bit of a lifestyle change. For some people it’s getting used to a fly-in fly-out roster. For others, it’s moving to live in a remote mining community.

But are you and your family ready for life in a small, rural town?

I spoke to some people who have already made the big move to find out some of the advantages and disadvantages of living in a mining town.

The advantages of living in a mining town

  • When you live in a mining town you tend to work standardised hours, or about 40 to 50 hours a week. In that respect, it’s a big contrast to the FIFO lifestyle.
  • Your family gets to come with you, so you get to see them every day.
  • You also get to live in your own home — so there’s no communal dining, no fixed meal times, and you have all the creature comforts of home.
  • If you’re willing to move to a mining town you actually have vastly increased job prospects, as living locally can increase your chances of securing a role.
  • Occasionally mining companies provide subsidised housing and utilities, thereby reducing the amount of your salary you need to spend to live.
  • Forget traffic jams; the commute time can be as little as ten minutes from home to work, so the hours are even shorter than most people in a city.
  • You’re not just joining a workplace; you’re joining a community. People are usually more inclusive and welcoming.
  • Social activities are often more family-centric, including sporting activities.
  • You’re not just close to work; you’re close to everything: Usually most shops and amenities are within a ten-minute drive from home.
  • There’s often a better sense of being part of a “team” in the working environment, because people both socialise and work together.
  • The facilities on offer — including sporting, social, schooling and community — are often better supported by mining companies than they are in cities.
  • And, importantly for the mining company, the cost of running an operation with a permanent residential community can be less than fly-in fly-out. That means the site may well be more economically viable and under less risk of closure during periods of low commodity prices.

The disadvantages of living in a mining town

  • The cost of living is higher than in the city because the cost of transporting goods is very high.
  • There can be a lack of educational facilities. Usually most small towns have a primary school but do not have the resources and facilities a school in a larger town or a city would have.
  • Housing can be more expensive if you are not in company-supplied housing. In Port Hedland (Western Australia) during the boom, for example, rents were as high as $3000 a week for a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house.
  • Essential services, like medical specialists, are not easily accessible and sometimes a simple medical problem can become a logistical challenge.
  • Entertainment choices can be limited.
  • If you or your partner work shifts, getting enough sleep with children in the house can be a challenge and will require some management.
  • If you are single, there can be a lack of other single people in the town.
  • There can be a gender imbalance in many mining towns. As an example, at the height of the most recent boom some Pilbara towns were close to 70 per cent male.
  • If the site closes, or if redundancies occur, the whole family is uprooted.
  • There is a lack of choice in shopping facilities and groceries may only be delivered once a week.
  • Most towns have regular flights to a capital city, but these are expensive and it can be costly for a family to go away. Also, the distances between mining towns and cities in Australia are vast.
  • Depending on location, there can be a gap between the town residents who are working in mining and those who are not. In the worst cases, this can create an “us and them” mentality.

So there are certainly pros and cons to consider before making the decision to move to a remote mining town. But, like most things in life, it is what you make it! While it’s not for everyone, many people really love the lifestyle.