Hundreds of jobs have been saved at Mount Isa Mines thanks to new environmental conditions that allows the Mount Isa Mines Copper Smelter and Townsville Copper Refinery to operate until the end of 2022.
In June, the Queensland Government announced changes to environmental legislation to allow copper smelting operations to continue in Mount Isa in north-west Queensland beyond its planned closure date of 2016.
This decision follows more than 12 months of internal work and consultation with government, community stakeholders and environment and health experts to determine a responsible and economically sustainable future for the asset extension, which ultimately secures 800 direct jobs across the business’s north Queensland supply chain.
Mike Westerman, chief operating officer for Glencore’s North Queensland Copper Assets, said the business is committed to continuing copper smelting operations in Mount Isa for as long as these activities remain economically viable.
“It makes us very proud to have secured a path forward for the copper smelter that balances our environmental obligations with sustaining jobs for our people and the economic realities of operating a metallurgical processing asset in Australia in today’s market,” Mr Westerman said.
“We look forward to ongoing productive discussions with the Queensland Government to secure agreeable rates to transport our product to market, post 2016.
“In light of the current market conditions, a continued focus on increasing cost efficiencies and reducing waste is critical to maintaining the sustainability of our Mount Isa operations.
“The best thing we can do for our community is to operate a safe, environmentally responsible and efficient business that meets community expectations and can compete in the global marketplace.
“This was not a simple decision to make, and we were committed to approaching it in the right way to ensure a responsible, sustainable outcome that our business and our community could stand behind.”
Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche welcomed the announcement.
“Glencore is a major economic contributor to the north-west region of Queensland and both the copper smelter in Mount Isa and the refinery in Townsville provide direct and indirect jobs as well as a broader benefit to local businesses and community organisations,” Mr Roche said.
“The slump in commodity prices has resulted in many jobs being lost so it’s heartening to be able to welcome some good news of jobs being preserved and extended in the long term. What this shows is that when you combine a good viable mineral resource, a well-run asset, a sound business case, and add in political goodwill backed by government action, we can achieve a good outcome for all parties.
“We acknowledge the multi-party support for the changes to the environmental legislation and the strong advocacy of local Mount Isa MP Rob Katter. The biggest beneficiaries are the hard-working Glencore employees of Mount Isa and Townsville, their families and other local businesses who receive a flow-on effect from the benefits generated by the smelter and refinery.”
Image: Mount Isa Mines