MORE THAN 40 jobs were lost yesterday from Whitehaven Coal in Gunnedah with more expected to come as early as next week at the neighbouring Idemitsu mining operations in Boggabri.
The Boggabri mine contractor Downer IDE last night said it was too early to put a figure on their redundancies but it was reviewing its mine workforce needs and there would be some redundancies.
Some analysts suggest the Boggabri Coal job losses could be similar in number to Whitehaven’s.
The news sent shock waves through the Gunnedah and Boggabri communities.
About 30 permanent positions and 10 contractor roles at Whitehaven’s Rocglen and Tarrawonga mines were made redundant with the positions spread across the company’s mine operations and maintenance staff, as well as contractors.
There was still confusion last night with Idemitsu contractor Downer IDE at Boggabri Coal, which employs about 150 people including contractors, only being told earlier it would have to review things because of Idemitsu’s reduction in production targets.
The job losses come, according to Whitehaven, because of issues including falling coal prices, cost pressure on operations and a review of operations.
Whitehaven told employees of the redundancies yesterday and were providing counsellors and employment assistance program people.
“While Whitehaven is a relatively low-cost operator, we are not immune from the continuing weakness in global coal prices,” Whitehaven managing director Tony Haggarty said.
“Reducing our workforce is a difficult decision to take. However, as part of the review process it became clear that decisive action needed to be taken in order to ensure our open cut business remained viable in the current low coal price environment.”
Whitehaven executive general manager of operations Jamie Frankcombe said the jobs lost were “predominantly local people” and there were no immediate opportunities for them to be re-employed by the company locally.
The only hope would be the Maules Creek expansion, and Mr Frankcombe said construction would begin late this year or early next year.
He said those laid off were a mixture of long- and short-term employees and the selection process involved studying the skills base, performance and safety performance of the workforce.
Whitehaven currently employs more than 600 people, with more than 75 per cent of this workforce living and working in North West NSW.
Idemitsu Australia Resources confirmed its mining contractor at
Boggabri Coal Mine, Downer EDI Mining, would restructure its shifts as an interim measure to meet current business circumstances and this would affect a number of the mining contractor’s employees.
Idemitsu chief operating officer Rod Bridges said recent coal chain capacity constraints contributed to the need for the shift restructure.
“This is a very unfortunate situation and we understand the planned shift restructure by our contractor, Downer EDI Mining, has been unavoidable given the current circumstances,” he said.
Mr Bridges said delays in receiving state and federal government approval related to the extension of Boggabri Coalmine had also had an impact on production.
“Idemitsu Australia Resources is currently making a concerted effort to improve the situation for our contractor, to help them to resume standard operating shifts at the mine,” he said.
A spokesman for Downer, Michael Sharp, said last night the news would obviously mean redundancies but it was too early to know how many and they would keep their workforce informed as they worked through that process.
**** Gunnedah chamber caretaker president John Campbell said the only real options for the redundant workers would be the expansion of Maules Creek or if Shenhua progressed, which would not be until 2016.
“It would be a matter of these
people being able to hang on that long because there’s probably not a great deal of work around the place and the town had been quiet all year,” he said.
“We’re not going that well out here,” he said. “The mines are too far out of here and it’s going to hurt Boggabri more so than us.”
Boggabri Business group spokeswoman Donna Turner said the effect on the town would depend on whether they were fly-in or residents.
“We’re affected both ways because we’ve been affected when all the mine workers came into town and the locals were pushed out because rates were sent skyrocketing so we’ve lost diehard locals and now we’re losing mine locals,” Ms Turner said.
“When the market’s down, people are put off, then price goes up and people are put on, so it’s a rollercoaster in any community. The workers will be put back and if they’re used to this sort of thing, they’ll pack up and move and if they like the area they’ll come back when there is work. Being a small community, we rely on that number being here for the supermarket, chemist and real estate.”