Hunter mines want buffer from job cuts

The Hunter Valley.

The New South Wales Minerals Council has blamed the state’s ‘broken’ planning system for the current slowdown in the Hunter’s coal mining sector.

Hunter’s huge coal industry and business groups have held a roundtable asking for the state government to provide more support for the industry, through better planning laws.

The call for support comes as Caterpillar supplier WesTrac slashed 350 jobs as demand falls in the resources sector.

Westrac’s owner Seven Group has also decreased its earning guidance, saying workers across its NSW and ACT operations will be slashed due to ‘challenging market conditions’.

More than 70 jobs went from GlencoreXstrata’s Mount Owen open-cut coal mine in the Hunter as production costs increased.

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union district president Peter Jordan said 55 mineworkers, six tradespeople and 12 contractor roles were gone.

Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said the government should do more to protect the sector from continued job cuts, the ABC reported.

“There can be little doubt that the planning system here in New South Wales is broken,” he said.

“It’s delivering inconsistent and perverse outcomes that are causing investment and jobs to be driven away from this state.

“We need a proper planning system which will deliver consistency, efficiency and certainty for industry and the community and that will bring further investment and protect jobs.”

Heavy equipment maker Caterpillar announced a 45 per cent drop in first quarter earnings earlier this year, and it cut its forecast for the remaining year. Its first quarter profit was down from $1.5 billion to $880 million.

The drop came at a time of considerable job cuts at the company’s manufacturing plants in the US, with over 700 workers laid off from factories in South Milwaukee and Illinois.

“In our year-end 2012 financial release, we said the first quarter of 2013 would be challenging, and it certainly was,” Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman said at the time.

New research by consulting group Wood Mackenzie said dropping commodity prices and rising operating costs were ravaging the coal industry with one industry association saying over 9000 jobs have gone in the last 15 months from May.

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