Mt Isa copper smelter reprieved until 2022

Glencore has announced finalisation of an agreement with the Queensland Government which will keep the Mount Isa Mines Copper Smelter open until the end of 2022.

The decision will also affect the Townsville Copper Refinery, which was due to close after the smelter in 2017.

According to Glencore the new agreement will secure 800 direct jobs across their North Queensland supply chain.

Glencore’s north Queensland Copper Assets CEO Mike Westerman said the business would be committed to continuing copper smelting operations in Mount Isa while they remained economically viable.

“It makes us very proud to have secured a path forward for the copper smelter that balances our environmental obligations with sustaining jobs for our people and the economic realities of operating a metallurgical processing asset in Australia in today’s market,” Westerman said.

“We look forward to on-going productive discussions with the Queensland Government to secure agreeable rates to transport our product to market, post 2016.

“In light of the current market conditions, a continued focus on increasing cost efficiencies and reducing waste is critical to maintaining the sustainability of our Mount Isa operations.

“The best thing we can do for our community is to operate a safe, environmentally responsible and efficient business that meets community expectations and can compete in the global marketplace.

“This was not a simple decision to make, and we were committed to approaching it in the right way to ensure a responsible, sustainable outcome that our business and our community could stand behind.

Westerman thanked Member for Mount Isa Rob Katter and Mayor Tony McGrady for their support in negotiations with state government.

Queensland Resources Council CEO Michael Roche welcomed the news, pointing out the broader contribution made by Glencore to jobs in the region.

“The slump in commodity prices has resulted in many jobs being lost so it’s heartening to be able to welcome some good news of jobs being preserved and extended in the long term,” he said.

“What this shows is that when you combine a good viable mineral resource, a well-run asset, a sound business case, and add in political goodwill backed by government action, we can achieve a good outcome for all parties.

“We acknowledge the multi-party support for the changes to the environmental legislation and the strong advocacy of local Mount Isa MP Rob Katter.

‘The biggest beneficiaries are the hard-working Glencore employees of Mount Isa and Townsville, their families and other local businesses who receive a flow-on effect from the benefits generated by the smelter and refinery.’

Roche highlighted a recent QRC report which stated that the resource sector had contributed $2 billion to the north-west economy in Queensland in 2014-15.

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