Ms Rinehart, the world's richest woman, has been given permission to employ 1,715 foreign workers.
25 May 2012
World’s richest woman gets Australia visa go ahead for 1,715 workers
Gina Rinehart, Australia's biggest mining magnate who became the world's richest woman recently, has been given approval to bring in up to 1,715 foreign workers over the next three years to work on her AU$9.5 billion (£5.9 billion) Roy Hill iron ore project.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen today granted Ms Rinehart's Hancock Prospecting, who will be running the Roy Hill project, the first Enterprise Migration Agreement (EMA) which allows large numbers of foreign workers to enter the country on an Australia visa in an effort to combat growing skills shortages.
"There is no doubt that the Roy Hill Project is one of national significance," said Mr Bowen.
The change in Australian immigration policy is seen as a large step for the ongoing resources boom in Australia, allowing as yet untapped resources in Western Australia's remote Pilbara region to be accessed.
"The EMA provides an essential bridge of temporary workers to quickly take our project from the construction phase to the production phase," a spokesperson for Roy Hill, who hope the mine will begin producing iron ore by 2014.
Ms Rinehart's preference for hiring foreign workers has come under fire from Australian workers' unions who claim Australians should be considered for jobs before looking overseas.
"Roy Hill has a strong priority and preference for employing and training Australian employees," said the spokesperson. "However there is clearly insufficient Australian workforce capacity to meet the surge construction needs of the resource industry."
As part of the EMA, Hancock Prospecting will train an additional 2,000 Australian workers, at a cost of AU$20 million (£12.5 million), for future work in the resources industry.
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.