Proposed 1,500-room mining camp in Goldfields town of Kambalda faces backlash from community

A purpose-built mining camp for FIFO workers in the town of Goldfields in Kambalda has received unanimous backing from Coolgardie council, but locals fear it could bring the town to ‘death’.

At a special council meeting on Tuesday evening, the five councilors present voted to send the proposal for community consultation.

However, the plan has already met with opposition in the community.

Kara Janssen has lived in Kambalda since she was five years old and said she has seen the town change over the years as more fly-in mining camps were built.

She said a fourth camp was not what the town needed to survive.

“To be honest, the city will die once we become a FIFO city because right now we don’t have rentals and nobody is interested in building more houses for families,” she said. .

Local Kara Janssen says Kambalda will die if it becomes a fly-in town.(ABC Goldfields-Esperance Robert Koenig-Luck)

Coolgardie Shire chairman Malcolm Cullen said the county needed to maintain and improve the services in the community it needed to seek other sources of revenue.

“The Worker Accommodation Village Project offers that, while supporting a key industry for our community,” he said.

Ms Janssen said that instead of building more mining camps, she would like to see the council invest in repairing the city’s roads and building residential housing.

“Put things in here for families to attract so we don’t die,” she said.

Dealing with the “worker housing crisis”

Coolgardie Shire general manager James Trail told ABC Goldfields Breakfast that there is currently a “worker accommodation crisis” in the area which the village could help address.

“For the mining sector to continue to grow and for these big projects to move forward, they need worker housing,” he said.

“Our county and our council are convinced that we prefer residential, but we want the mining sector here because it is the economic injection into the community.”

Wide shot of a mining camp behind a fence.
Many residents of Kambalda are concerned about the construction of additional mining camps in their town.(ABC Goldfields-Esperance Robert Koenig-Luck)

The project has been costed at $164 million and would be built in two stages, with the first phase expected to provide between 600 and 800 rooms.

The first stage would also see the construction of new road, parking and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as sewer and water infrastructure and a waste treatment plant.

A kitchen and refectory will be built to accommodate 800 people, with the facilities being expanded during the second stage to accommodate an additional 900 people.

Mr. Trail said that if development were to continue, it would be funded entirely by external sources.

The accommodation village is expected to be built at Kambalda West on the site of the town’s former golf course.

A red sign leaning against a street reading Kambalda golf course
The 1,500-room development is set to be built on the former Kambalda golf course.(ABC Goldfields-Esperance Robert Koenig-Luck)

Mr. Trail said the site was chosen because of its proximity to downtown while having minimal impact on the community.

He said the former golf course was the most suitable location for the development, with the village using 20% ​​of the 90-hectare site and being a five-minute walk from the town centre.

“It was a balance between integrating members of the village into the city, but also maintaining a reasonable distance due to its size,” he said.

Community concerns

Kambalda resident Helene Richardson lives close to the golf course and started a petition to stop the development of 1,500 rooms, saying it would harm the community.

“I have almost 80 signatures on this petition,” she said.

“People said they wouldn’t pay any attention to this petition because Mr. Trail decided he wanted this camp to go ahead.”

Ms Richardson said she believed the economic benefits to the town had been overstated due to her experience with current mining camps in the areas.

“No fly-in fly-outs spend money here to support the local community because it’s all spent where they live,” she said.

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