The man in charge of Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill iron ore project believes the State's construction skill shortage is all but over, saying a dramatic turnaround in the labour market had led to productivity gains and an end to fears that a lack of skilled workers could lead to missed deadlines or project cost blowouts.
Speaking at the Global Iron Ore and Steel Forecast conference in Perth yesterday, Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald said the project's contractors now had little need to import big numbers of foreign workers to fill critical skill shortages.
Roy Hill was criticised by trade unions in 2012 when it applied for an enterprise migration agreement through the then Labor government, seeking permission to bring in as many as 1700 temporary overseas workers during the project's construction phase.
Mr Fitzgerald said there was now little need to pursue an EMA given the construction downturn, with more than 5500 people applying for jobs at Roy Hill since December. Some blue-collar positions had attracted more than 600 applicants, he said.
He said Roy Hill had spent more than $300 million on its project in February, with spending set to rise in coming months.
Mr Fitzgerald refused to comment on progress of the com- pany's negotiations with commercial lenders over their part in the estimated $7 billion debt package needed to complete the project, saying only that talks were "well progressed".
But Australian Securities and Investments Commission filings suggest Mrs Rinehart still has plenty of firepower available in the form of contributions from equity partners.
Roy Hill's last equity drawdown was disclosed last month. ASIC records show Roy Hill had almost $935 million in commitments still available from its shareholders.