New opportunities for newly unemployed miners in Tasmania

The Tasmanian state government has formed an economic task force in the wake of more than 350 mining job losses on the state’s west coast.

The new West Coast Economic Working Group met for the first time on Friday to discuss job losses at the closed Henty nickel and Mt Lyell copper mines.

Premier Will Hodgeman addressed locals in Queenstown last week to announce the formation of the working group, which includes the West Coast mayor Robyn Gerrity, Mt Lyell owner Copper Mines of Tasmania, workers’ unions, Liberal MP Adam Brooks, and community representatives.

Hodgeman said the group would help to provide unemployed workers with training and help them to find new jobs, as well as seek investment opportunities that would create new jobs.

"There are no magic bullets, or instant solutions but what we want to know is what the community would like us to focus on…not just look at the short-term needs of services from government, but really what can we do to help build the economy on the west coast and Queenstown," he said.

"And also what other industries or opportunities are there that need government to play its part in helping those opportunities become realities."

Mayor Robyn Gerrity estimated that the flow-on effects of the mine closures could push job losses among contractors and local business as high as 1200.

Gerrity said the working group was already aware of the reopening of the Avebury Nickel mine in Zeehan, which is expected to employ 200 people when it starts up in April next year.

The Avebury mine is expected to have a life of 20 years.

"I have been in discussions with the Chairman of the company and between the Taskforce, the council and the state government, we'll be able to bring the opening of that mine forward if people can possibly hang in there for six months," she said.

Avebury Nickel Mines Ltd, formerly QCG Resources, will buy MMG's idle Tasmanian Avebury nickel mine for $40 million and is looking to restart production in a quick timeframe.

MMG was given Chinese regulatory approval for the sale on Wednesday.

The Avebury mine has been closed since February 2009 due to floundering nickel prices.

MMG executive general manager Michael Nossal said Avebury Nickel Mines (QCG) was well placed to bring the Avebury operation back into production.

“We believe this offer represents the best outcome for both MMG and the Avebury asset,” he said.

“QCG is committed to a restart of the mine and MMG is confident that if the sale is completed, it will reinvigorate the Zeehan area, by providing new jobs and economic benefit to the region.”

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