Closing Gove, Rio will destroy the region: AWU

Rio Tinto’s decision to shut its Gove alumina refinery in the Northern Territory will destroy the region, the Australian Workers union says.

AWU National Secretary Paul Howes said the decision questions Rio’s social licence to mine.

"We are talking about an entire town being destroyed here, $500 million wiped from the economy, and some of the most effective Indigenous employment and training programs in the country wiped out," Howes said.

Howes said the decision to close the refinery hasn’t taken into account the long term effects on the Nhulunbuy town.

"Rio's casual abandonment of an entire town due to short term market conditions is a complete disgrace. While the AWU doesn't doubt for a second that tough conditions exist, those conditions will – inevitably – change over time,” Howes said.

Hitting out at Rio, Howes claims the miner is displaying a “casual disregard” for the communities it is involved in.

"They have been getting an astoundingly good deal from our mineral resources, yet they are treating us as one big pit that can be abandoned at the drop of a hat,” he said.

He claims that the full story is not being told.

"Rio's handling of aluminium production since the Alcan takeover has been a shambles and the NT Government's handling of this process has been no better,” Howes said.

"I don't believe for a second that we are getting the full story on how this whole operation has been allowed to fall apart, but I am determined to get it”

Howes on Friday said AWU representatives were on their way to Nhulunbuy and that he will be seeking meetings with NT politicians.

"If [closing the refinery] is allowed to proceed Chief Minister Adam Giles will have the complete destruction of Nhulunbuy and Yakala on his record. We cannot allow that to happen." 

Shutting the refinery will see up to 1500 jobs disappear from the region.

In a statement on Friday, Rio said it will be focussing on its bauxite mining operations, deciding the refinery is no longer viable in the current market environment.

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