McArthur decision urgently needed

Xstrata has called for an urgent decision by the Federal Government on the McArthur River Mine (MRM), warning that it may have to close operations if one doesn't come soon.

Xstrata has called for an urgent decision by the Federal Government on the McArthur River Mine (MRM), warning that it may have to close operations if one doesn’t come soon.

Xstrata warns that the mine’s critically low stockpiles of zinc-lead ore will be depleted by January 26, and that a closure will cost hundreds of jobs.

“If we do not have a decision by the Federal Government on whether we can continue mining at the McArthur River Mine by that date, we will unfortunately have no other option than to lay off 300 workers and suspend all operations at MRM, putting the operation into care and maintenance for an indefinite period,” Xstrata chief executive officer Brian Hearne said.

Work at the site ceased on Dec 17, 2008 after a Federal Court decision to uphold a June finding that the Government’s approval of a $110 million open cut mine development at the site was invalid.

According to Hearne, Xstrata has done all that has been required to comply with the Federal Court’s decision.

“The case was only ever about the process followed by the Commonwealth Government in giving consent to the mine’s $110 million open pit development, following approval by the Northern Territory Government,” he said.

“It was never about the merits of the application, potential benefits and impacts of the project itself.”

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett visited MRM on January 14 to meet with Xstrata representatives, local community members and traditional owners of the land, the Borroloola people.

The traditional owners told Garrett they wanted the mine to remain in operation to provide employment and training to community members, Hearne said.

“Failure by Minister Garrett to act on this urgent issue and commence the application process will put the MRM expansion project, jobs and the Borroloola community at risk,” he said.

“We are already in a difficult operating environment due to the global financial crisis and any further delay only serves to seriously compound the difficulties faced.”

Of 300 employees at McArthur River Mine, 46 are members of the Borroloola community, 22 of which are trainees under the indigenous training program.

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