Twenty mining jobs to go in Buller

By Lee Scanlon -
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The staff changes at Bathurst Resources would take place over the next six weeks. Photo / Supplied
The staff changes at Bathurst Resources would take place over the next six weeks. Photo / Supplied

Bathurst Resources has confirmed it will cut 20 jobs in Buller.

The company announced a fortnight ago that it was putting its Escarpment Mine into care and maintenance and reviewing the 25 jobs it provides in Buller.

Chief executive Richard Tacon confirmed today that 19 staff would be made redundant and one would transfer to Bathurst company Canterbury Coal.

Bathurst would retain five roles in Westport -- two geologists, two which had yet to be confirmed, and one company-wide role.

The staff changes would take place over the next six weeks, Mr Tacon said.

Bathurst was still deciding whether to keep its Westport office open and whether to sell its Buller nursery.

Equipment at Escarpment would move to other Bathurst sites.

Bathurst plans to suspend operations at Escarpment, on the Denniston Plateau, in early May and put the mine into care and maintenance.

Mr Tacon said earlier this month that Bathurst had no choice because Escarpment's main customer, Holcim's Cape Foulwind cement works, was closing in June.

"The truth of it is, we've really got nothing to replace Holcim," Mr Tacon said. "We've put in for other markets elsewhere and we haven't been successful so far."

Bathurst's other Buller mine, Cascade, used to supply most of the cement works coal. It closed before Christmas with the loss of seven jobs.

Mr Tacon was confident Escarpment would become operational over the next five years. He said the mine needed markets of about 100,000 tonnes a year, whether domestic or export.

Ramping it up for export production would cost about $20 million. The export coking coal price would have to rise to about US$100/tonne to make it viable, Mr Tacon said.

The price is currently about US$80/tonne.

The original plan for Escarpment was to produce up to three million tonnes of coal and employ up to 400 people.

But international coking coal prices collapsed and the mine has produced just 50,000 tonnes, and employed 12 people, since production started 18 months ago.

Solid Energy announced earlier this month that it was planing to cut 41 of the 225 jobs at Stockton Open Cast mine.

The consultation period with workers ended at midday today.

E Tu union organiser, Garth Elliott, declined to reveal what feedback the union had given company.

A new Stockton structure will be confirmed on March 30. Job offers will be made to employees on individual contracts, and selection confirmed to employees on collective contracts, from April 15.

Debt-laden Solid Energy went into voluntary administration last year. All its assets will be for sale from next month.

Solid Energy bosses have said that if no buyer comes forward for Stockton by June, the only option would be to close the mine.

Chief executive Dan Clifford said in Westport earlier this month that the mine was a saleable asset. He said while the latest changes would make it more saleable, they would be happening regardless of the sale process.

"Our driver is about the lowest cost per tonne," he said.

The restructure will cut mine production from 944,000 tonnes a year to about 900,000 tonnes, and reduce cash operating costs by $10 million a year on top of $10 million already saved compared to budget.

Machine hours will reduce 18 per cent and 18 fewer mobile plan items will be required.


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