130 jobs on the line at gold mine

130 workers’ jobs are at risk as receivers visited Apex Minerals’ Wiluna mine on Wednesday to decide the next course of action on the loss-making gold operation.

Ferrier Hodgson was appointed receivers after secured creditor RF Capital, the private company of Multiplex heir Andrew Roberts, backed out of extending a $5 million credit line.

It has appointed Pitch Partners’ Bryan Hughes as administrator.

RF Capital’s withdrawal means executive chairman Ed Eshuys’ endeavour to save Apex ends after he replaced company founder Mark Ashley in April last year.

The West Australian reported it is still early to know whether the gold mine would be placed on care and maintenance before a sale or whether Ferrier would attempt to trade Apex and lift it out of its troubles.

This would need considerable capital boost and it is not know whether Roberts would use relief from other creditor demands approved by the receivership process to inject more cash into Apex and rescue Wiluna.

Hughes is also looking at alternatives to rejuvenate Apex but patience is running thin in the equity markets and among previous supporters.

The company was hit with a mechanical failure this week resulting in power shortage.

It said the breakdown of the gas-powered generator meant mine operations had to be curtailed.

Many of the workers were briefly stood down, as Apex had to go back to creditors to ask for another $1 million in cash injection.

Apex was previously a Mark Creasey vehicle for the purpose of exploring the Windimurra base metal ‘superproject’.

The company poured $28 million into three projects before acquiring the Wiluna project from Oxiana in June 2007 in a cash and scrip deal worth $29.5 million.

It raised more than $250 million from shareholders since then, and accumulated losses of more than $350 million. Apex only made profits in 2010-11 of $20.2 million and has been in debt every other year.

To keep up to date with Australian Mining, subscribe to our free email newsletters delivered straight to your inbox. Click here.