(Bloomberg) — The woman who became the richest person in Australia by developing some of the nation’s vast iron ore deposits has learned one key lesson from the last commodity bust — hire cheaper workers.
Billionaire Gina Rinehart is expanding her payroll to ramp up production from the Roy Hill Holdings Pty mine in Western Australia’s remote Pilbara outback. Many of her new employees get paid less because they have little or no mining experience, like Courtney Grove, 24, who studied animal health and science at university. Since last month, Grove has been driving a pink mining truck that shuttles 226 metric tons of ore at the $10 billion mine.
Targeting so-called “greenies” who can be taught basic mining skills is part of Roy Hill’s push to keep costs low in an age of global surpluses and to diversify its workforce. The iron ore industry was hit hard by a three-year slump that eroded profit and left some companies stuck paying unskilled workers as much as A$200,000 ($154,000) annually, twice the average salary in Australia. While prices have rebounded over the past year, the rally isn’t expected to last.
“We need to be agile in terms of our cost base,” Giles Lenz, Roy Hill’s general manager of human resources, said by phone from the mine’s processing plant in the Pilbara. “We don’t have any policies, work practices and legacy benefits that load up our cost base.”
After hiring 858 people in the past 12 months, the company still needs to add another 650, and many will be newbies. Among those recruited are former farm workers, small business owners and even amateur netball players with the hand-eye coordination needed to drive a truck or operate heavy machinery. Netball is the country’s most-popular organized sport for women. Ten players have taken jobs at Roy Hill so far, the result of company representatives scouting competitions across Western Australia state.
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