SYDNEY – From trimming menus in staff canteens to cutting back on soap and washing detergent at worker camps, the global mining industry that once lavished perks on employees is scrimping like never before as a brutal downturn engulfs minerals markets.
After frantically cutting costs by slashing jobs, freezing salaries and squeezing more from suppliers, mining companies are now scrambling to unearth savings in even the most mundane parts of their businesses.
“It’s not to the point yet where employees are being asked to grow their own vegetables or stay in farmhouses, but if you’re not seen attacking costs at any level, no matter how small, it’s not a good look,” said Kevin Kartun, a geologist and principal of Karmar Mining Services in Sydney.
In the boom years, Australian mining companies typically laid on daily barbecues for ‘fly-in fly-out’ workers in remote locations, as well offering luxury comforts and entertainment such as jetting in rock bands to play gigs.
But, with prices for everything from coal to copper decimated in recent years as China’s economy slows, such lavishness has disappeared.
“Living arrangements today are so different from the go-go days, when companies would do anything to keep you,” said an iron ore miner, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue. “These days I might have a beer after my shift and call it a night.”
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