Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

Solid Energy to cut 93 more jobs

Coal heap at Solid Energy's  Rotowaro open cast mine at Huntly. File photo / NZPA
Coal heap at Solid Energy's Rotowaro open cast mine at Huntly. File photo / NZPA

Ninety-three people will lose their jobs at Huntly East Underground Mine in more cutbacks announced today by struggling State-owned coal miner Solid Energy.

Miners will remain in limbo for the next four weeks as bosses consult over the 66 who will remain. Solid Energy told miners at a meeting today the mine would remain open for maintenance over the next month, and miners would work reduced shifts.

Production would be cut by two thirds because the price of coal had dropped globally and Huntly East was too expensive to run compared to an open cast mine, bosses said.

Fourth generation miner and mechanical fitter Ross Vernon called for the resignation of State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall, who he said had overseen the mismanagement of Solid Energy which led to the losses.

Miner Steven Lamb said he was "gutted" and would likely have to sell his house.

Union officials said the job loss numbers were far higher than expected.

National Advocate for Mining Ray Urquhart said there were no guarantees that there wouldn't be further job losses.

He blamed the redundancy squarely on Glenbrook and Huntly Power station using Indonesian coal, which he said was taking over the industry.

Solid Energy chairman Mark Ford said he had no alternative but to make the cuts to keep the company viable in a time of poor market prices and high debt level.

The company's debt was still at $398 million but Mr Ford said it was good news the Huntley East mine was not closing. A new contract with New Zealand Steel and a new supply agreement, albiet at lower volume and prices, would keep mining activity going.

- NZ Herald

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