Metallurgical workers laid off from Gina Rinehart's Roy Hill project last week had reached the end of their contracts and weren't cut to save costs, according to company officials.
Whilst initial rumours suggested workers at the mine's metallurgical lab expected to stay long term, Roy Hill general manager external affairs Darryl Hockey told Australian Mining the employees were always on temporary contracts.
"These were contract positions which were always slated for completion at the end of September," he said.
"They process ore samples from exploration drilling, and this body of work is completed. So this is not a job cutting issue."
Hockey said because they weren't contruction workers the staff cut had nothing to do with Hancock Prospecting's plan to use an enterprise migration agreement to import 1,715 skilled overseas workers to Roy Hill.
"The EMA is something which provides the ability to bring in temporary overseas construction workers if sufficient skilled Australian construction workers cannot be found," he said.
"Metallurgical laboratory workers are not construction workers."
Hockey said Roy Hill was still approaching the main construction period and plans to import labour would help the company secure final financing.
"We will not actually commence construction proper until we have our debt finance in place, and this will be next year," he said.
"Then we will seek to recruit as many Australians as possible."
"The EMA is the insurance required to show to bankers that we have a guarantee that if the labour shortages predicted by government and industry prove to be correct, then our construction schedule will not fall over as a result of skilled labour shortages."
Outside the metallurgical lab, The West Australian reports Roy Hill contractor WorleyParsons has been told half of its estimated 200 workers would be cut to save costs at the fledgling Pilbara mine.
According to The West Australian Roy Hill officials have told staff spending on the project would be cut over the next six months to save costs.