Closure of Glencore’s Collinsville mine ‘hurting locals’

Over 100 people turned out to a community meeting held in Collinsville last night as locals are becoming increasingly concerned their town will go under as GlencoreXstrata keep the coal mine closed.

GlencoreXstrata first announced in February it would take control of the Collinsville Coal Mine away from Thiess as it pushes for the project to turn a profit.

However after 400 workers were notified by Thiess that their employment contract would end on August 31, they face an uncertain future as GlencoreXstrata are refusing to give preference to the existing workforce.  

The mine closed over the weekend, leaving 400 people out of work, 190 of which live in the small Collinsville community.

Glencore say current workplace agreements are restrictive and want to re-hire workers under differing contracts, a move which has angered the unions.

Despite the industrial relations issues taking place, many of which will continue to be fought between the CFMEU and the miner itself, locals say the ramifications of the decision to close the mine are already being felt.

Mining Communities United spokeswoman Donna Bulloch says the whole community is suffering.

“It’s really scary here right now: no one knows what’s happening,” Bulloch said.

“The local coffee shop lady told me she might have to close as there’s just not enough business.”

Bulloch said with the uncertainity around when the mine will reopen, and if any of the 190 workers will be re-hired, locals have been left in the dark by multinational miner Glencore.

“There has been no transparency, no community meetings and no consultation,” Bulloch said.

Bulloch said while she understands mining towns can go through rough patches, the issues at Collinsville centre around a social licence to operate.

"Even if Glencore only stays shut for three months … that's three months that businesses have to suffer.

"A lot of small businesses won't be able to stay open for three months and have no customers or limited customers."

Glencore argue that the mine has been unprofitable for the last 18 months, and say the closure is part of a transition phase that was attempting to keep the mine viable.

However this claim has been questioned by the CFMEU.

"The company has notified the market that Collinsville is profitable and will continue to operate, but management do not want to accept the current enterprise agreement, ” CFMEU Queensland president Stephen Smyth has said.

In a letter to employees in July, Glencore said it believed there was a "profitable future for mining at Collinsville, but only if we make certain changes".

"The timing on reaching operational start-up is dependent on when we will have in place all of the components required as part of the new package," director of operation for the company's coal assets Bill McKinstrey wrote.

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