The Queensland Government has approved the transfer of Queensland Nickel’s environmental authority to Queensland Nickel Sales, the new operator of the Yabulu nickel refinery.
Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection approved the transfer of the EA today.
“I asked the department to expedite the application to have the EA formerly held by the refinery’s administrators transferred to Queensland Nickel Sales so there were no environmental impediments to the plant’s continuing operation,” Dr Miles said.
“I trust Mr Palmer now does the right thing by his workers and ensures their employment is as protected as it can be in the circumstances.
“EA transfers can be a relatively simply process if done correctly and are not uncommon in the minerals sector – and I say again that I am surprised Mr Palmer either was not aware that the EA transfer was needed or did not care to ensure it was in place before having a new company take over the refinery.
“It is also a pity that because of this oversight refinery workers had additional cause for concern about their livelihoods.”
EHP contacted Queensland Nickel Sales earlier this week to make the company aware of its legal responsibilities in obtaining an EA to operate the refinery.
EA transfer applications are made in accordance with section 253 of the Environmental Protection Act 1994. An EA holder is also required to be a registered suitable operator in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
On March 9, Queensland Nickel Sales made the necessary applications for such registration and the transfer of the existing EA to occur.
“Among other things, the EA transferred to Queensland Nickel Sales sets environmental standards for air, water, regulated structures, noise, land and rehabilitation,” Dr Miles said.
“The EA imposes strict conditions on the refinery’s operations that ensure the safety of the surrounding environment, including the Great Barrier Reef.
“As with all businesses in Queensland that hold EAs, monitoring and reporting systems are in place to ensure these standards and conditions are complied with.”
Yesterday, the remaining 550 Queensland Nickel workers were told they would be sacked as of close of business today.
Administrator FTI Consulting said in a statement that it had no choice but to terminate the Queensland Nickel workers after it was removed as the manager of the refinery earlier this week.
Treasurer Curtis Pitt says the Turnbull Government needs to extend the eligibility of its Fair Entitlements Guarantee (FEG) to cover workers now out of a job because of Clive Palmer’s corporate restructure.
Mr Pitt said if Mr Palmer had rearranged the nickel refinery’s corporate structure because he wanted to see it keep operating, he needed to clarify the future of former employees now without jobs.
“Last month, the Premier told Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that 237 QN employees sacked in January were not eligible for FEG because it applied only to businesses in liquidation,” Mr Pitt said.
“Now 550 workers have lost their jobs because of the rearrangement of Mr Palmer’s companies managing and operating the Yabulu refinery.
“But under current rules they will not be eligible for FEG payments until the previous management company Queensland Nickel is liquidated.
“Clive Palmer has rearranged the corporate structure of the Yabulu refinery. When he did so the state government called on him to fully explain its impact on workers and creditors. He has not done that.
“He changed the corporate structure because he said he wanted to keep the refinery going, which means keeping people in jobs to run the refinery.”
Image: Facebook/Clive Palmer