AN INCREDIBLE desperation for mining work has driven 18,000 Queenslanders to apply for less than 1100 jobs as fly-in, fly-out workers on two sprawling new Central Queensland coal mines.
The Caval Ridge and Daunia mines being built near Moranbah - worth a combined $5.8 billion - will be the state's first staffed entirely with workers flying in from elsewhere.
In an effort to spread the benefits of the mining industry's higher-than-average pay checks, BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance is sourcing its 1050-strong workforce from areas within a 100km radius of Cairns and Brisbane.
The greater Brisbane area meant those on the Sunshine Coast and Gold Coast were eligible before recruitment wrapped up this week.
For the 250 jobs up for grabs in the state's far north, BMA received 8000 applications - the equivalent of 32 per job.
For Brisbane, the number was 10,000 for the remaining 800 jobs - about 12 for every role.
Many of these would go to qualified trades people, but there was also scope for machine operators and drivers.
The use of workers beyond its traditional feeder areas of Central Queensland, including Mackay, Rockhampton, Gladstone, Moranbah, Dysart and Blackwater, received sharp criticism at the time of its announcement from the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union - the top mine workers union.
It described the plan as a "slap in the face" for locals.
But BMA's plan was backed by the State Government which praised its strategy of harvesting talent from areas like Cairns which faced higher unemployment compared to mining-rich regions which had some of the lowest jobless rates in the country.
Meanwhile, BMA responded to the criticism by saying a change in hiring habits did not mean it would be less willing to support the regions it helped to thrive.
In the past year, BMA created programs building regional businesses into suppliers while investing in the upgrade of Moranbah's airport, recreational centres and childcare facilities.
BMA declined to give exact figures on applications received but described the response as overwhelming.
The new workforce is expected to be put in place by mid-year.
THE NEW TWINS
Quick facts on BMA's two new Central Queensland projects.
Jobs:1000 (construction), 450 (operating)
CAVAL RIDGE BMA
Jobs: 2000 (construction), 500 (operating)
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