Glenden grocery store owner Milissa Payne.
Glenden grocery store owner Milissa Payne. Campbell Gellie

Workers' camp being built alongside dying town

JUST 20km outside of the dying mining town of Glenden, construction has started on QCoal's Byerwen Coal mine and, along with it, a brand new workers' camp.

The camp is being built while the 150 families that have made Glenden their home drive past 250 empty houses sprinkled around their streets.

Glenden was built to house the workers at Newlands mine, which was developed in 1981, and is the last town owned by one mining company in Queensland, Glencore.

It was a strong, booming community but due to roster changes and contract labour the town has shrunk. Those who remain hope new projects will give the town a boost.

A QCoal spokesperson said Glenden was already benefiting from the construction of Byerwen.

"All workers are currently accommodated in Glenden at owned and rented houses, and the fully booked Glenden Motel," the spokesperson said. "Byerwen Coal is committed to using existing housing infrastructure in Glenden where possible (and) council approval of construction of new housing in Glenden is expected before year end."

But QCoal's commitment to using the existing homes has been questioned by residents as negotiations between the two companies hit a wall more than 12 months before construction started. "We provided QCoal with draft agreements on infrastructure sharing, access to water infrastructure, supply of water, and access to Suttor Creek haul road," a Glencore spokesperson said.

"At our last meeting in March 2016, we indicated that we were open to further discussion on the draft agreements and also the offer to purchase housing in Glenden. Again, we have had no further contact from QCoal since."

Grocery store owner Milissa Payne has lived in Glenden for 35 years and said it was a missed opportunity for the town.

"QCoal has painted a pretty picture but they wanted to build a camp out there all along," she said.

Mrs Payne moved to Glenden before it was Glenden. She was eight years old living in a caravan with her parents while her father helped build Newlands mine.

"They moved us all in here but they forgot to tell us not to get attached," she said.

Now deeply in love with the place, Mrs Payne has raised four boys and buried one daughter in Glenden and has no plans to leave.

She hoped the once great coal mining town that had a champion rugby team, cricket teams, two shooting clubs and an active social life could be revived. But for that to happen her hopes once again rest on the mining companies, like Glencore, which provides her with free rent to run the grocery store.