Dust pollution and the cost of Australian labour have cited among reasons for the Hunter Valley’s Hedweld Group looking to the US to set up a new precision manufacturing division.
The Newcastle Herald reports that Ian Hedley, the company’s founder, has decided to establish a new precision manufacturing division in Idaho in the United States instead of in Mount Thorley’s industrial precinct, citing the high dust levels near the Mount Thorley-Warkworth open cut mine.
‘‘There is no way you can put together precision equipment that has hydraulics and everything when you have everything covered in dust,’’ Hedley told the Newcastle Herald. The division would have employed 15 people, according to the company.
‘‘What they (the mining industry) don’t realise is if they don’t change there won’t be anything left of them or the engineering and technical services services industries that support them in 15 years,’’ Hedley added.
An expansion of Rio Tinto’s Mount Thorley mine was blocked by the Land and Environment Court earlier this year. Yesterday the Upper Hunter Air Quality monitoring network found air pollution was significantly above the level considered safe.
However, Hedley, speaking to Manufacturers’ Monthly at the Asia Pacific International Mining Exhibition, AIMEX – which opened today – said that closeness to North American markets where Hedweld had contracts as well as labour costs were major reasons behind the decision.
Hedweld, a winner of the 2012 Premier’s NSW Exporter of the Year Award (in the small to medium manufacturing category) has contracts in markets including Chile, Mexico, the US, Canada and Peru.