Fly in, fly out? Spare a thought for walk in walk out miners!

Posted by barbara on November 18, 2012

The mining boom has dominated the airwaves and print media during recent years in the Australian context. To the point where acronyms such as FIFO have entered the mainstream vocabulary, as in 'fly in, fly out', referring to a workforce that lives somewhere else, anywhere but in the vicinity of the mine in question.

In response to demands for workers, a new style of accommodation is springing up to house the miners in rural and regional NSW and other states and territories, including prefab villages on the outskirts of long established towns such as Narrabri in north western central NSW. As in 'dongas' by another name.

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The Mac Village Narrabri is noticeably elevated, as in built on stilts, to reduce the risk of the units being impacted by the periodic flooding of the nearby Namoi River, the evidence of which can be seen in these early 2012 photos.

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It is salutory to compare today's demountable single men and women's housing units, complete with mod cons, with what was on offer in the pre-Broken Hill mining era in the 1880s when the silver-rich township of Silverton was THE drawcard for miners hoping to jag a lucrative job. 

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For miners drawn to the NSW\SA border in the hope of securing work in a going concern, the accommodation for walk in walk out (WIWA) miners was in one word rudimentary.

Based on current interpretation of the heritage remains of the historic Daydream silver mine (1882-1983), the miners slept in tiny stone-walled shelters (pictured above) that were covered by some form of roofing. With the miners working around the clock 24-7, two men shared such less than salubrious living quarters. Those impacted by the all too common condition of dust on the lungs slept upright, looping their arms over a horizontal wooden cross beam to assist their laboured breathing and ease their distress.

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