Mt Lyell copper mine has succumbed to the company axe, and will not reopen to development or mining production, instead being put into care and maintenance.
More than 200 workers have lost their jobs, learning the bad news today at a meeting called by mine owner Copper Mines of Tasmania.
CMT’s General Manager Scot Clyde said today that after exploring all options available to try keep the mine open and to keep the workforce together, the company had to make the reluctant decision to put the mine into care and maintenance.
“The discovery of a rock fall in the mine’s ventilation drive on Friday 27 June was a bitter blow as we were preparing for a staged restart of operations following the long shut down,” he said.
“This has been a very difficult decision for CMT and for our parent company Vedanta, especially after the large financial commitment to support our workforce on standby pay since the suspension of mining operations in January 2014.”
Clyde said it would be at least 18 months before any reopening of the mine would be possible.
Workers from the Mt Lyell mine have been stood down on half pay since January, after three fatalities took place in only three weeks.
The fatal incidents included the deaths of two workers who fell down a shaft in December, followed by another worker who was engulfed in a mudslide in January.
320 workers were employed at the mine when it closed down after the third accident, which had been cut down to 239 in late July.
Site contractor Barminco Holdings said they had 169 workers employed at Mount Lyell, and will offer redeployment opportunities for workers across Australia where available.
Barminco employees will continue to receive their current pay during the interim period.
Workers have been on half pay since they were stood down earlier this year.
Approximately 35 Barminco employees will be kept on for the next three months to clear last week’s rock fall and restore ventilation to the mine.
CMT will also keep on 15 employees to perform care and maintenance work, pumping water out of the mine and inspecting infrastructure, as well as complying with environmental requirements.
CMT said there will be ongoing drilling and exploration for new ore bodies on the Mt Lyell lease with the aim of re-opening the mine at some time in the future.
CMT general manager Scot Clyde had previously said that new methods including remote mining equipment had been developed to protect workers when the mine reopened.
The bad news for workers was called in advance by state opposition leader Bryan Green, who said he was “worried under the circumstances the way that people are actually being called together, which means that potentially we are talking about a mine closure.