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Environmental groups say Glencore could “cut-and-run”

The Environment Centre NT has called on the government and Glencore to guarantee all local jobs at the McArthur River site to be transitioned to a clean-up phase.

Glencore announced today a 500,000 tonne reduction of contained zinc metal mine production across its operations, which will see more than 500 jobs cuts from its Australian mines.

The Lady Loretta mine, located south of Mt Isa, will have operations suspended indefinitely, resulting in a loss of 242 jobs and production will be reduced at George Fisher mine, near Mt Isa, which will see another 224 jobs slashed.

McArthur River mine workforce is a major causality of the company’s global cutbacks, with at least 70 jobs gone due to reductions in zinc production by 135,000 tonnes this year.

The announcement came off the back of recent shareholder demands that the Glencore board reduce more than $10 billion from its more than $30 billion borrowings and cut back unproductive mining assets such as copper and zinc.

The Environment Centre NT has called on both the NT Government and Glencore to guarantee all local jobs at the site to be transitioned to a mine closure and clean-up phase of operations as the economic outlook for the multinational miner worsens.

“The company is in crisis and is making snap decisions that are convenient to its bottom line, but it is the downstream community suffering from contamination and ongoing uncertainty over job losses that should be foremost in the NT Government’s response,” community campaigner Lauren Mellor said.

“This open-cut mine built in the monsoonal tropics and floodplains on the McArthur River never made environmental sense. Now, with today’s announcement, it is clear it also no longer makes economic sense and should be cleaned up and closed down to avoid further damage.”

Exports are continuing but Glencore does not currently have an authority to mine at McArthur River while an urgent management plan to contain huge volumes of acidic waste rock on site is devised.

“Glencore’s current management plan for its acidic waste rock pile has proven unacceptable to regulators and ineffective at preventing contaminants entering waterways surrounding the mine. It is only a matter of time before these contaminants are spread across the floodplains and creeks of the Gulf,” she said.

Resource analysts have warned the heavily exposed commodities trader could become the resource sector’s Lehman Brothers – referencing the major US bank whose collapse precipitated the 2008 global financial crisis.

“Glencore’s financial problems at McArthur River won’t be solved by cuts to its workforce, as cleanup costs for contamination problems mount. It has no effective strategy to manage the huge volumes of acidic waste rock leaching into surrounding waterways on site. The only way to provide certainly for local communities and its workforce is to a commit to a fully-costed clean-up and closure plan now.”

 

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