Rio kicks off Gove refinery shutdown

Mothballing works have today begun at Rio Tinto’s Gove alumina refinery in the Northern Territory.

Rio announced it was shutting the operation in November, saying the site is unviable in the current economic climate.

Launching phase one of the five month shut down operation, Gove employees will begin by stopping one of the plant’s three bauxite digestion trains.

The remaining two trains will be turned off on April 1 and June 1 respectively.

As each train is switched off the workforce will be reduced.

Of the 1500 workers employed at the Arnhem Land operation about 350 employees will be redeployed to other Rio operations.

The first round of redundancies took place last week with about 90 worker s receiving their redundancy letters, The Australian reports.

In a move aimed at boosting its Indigenous workforce, Fortescue Metals Group announced in December it was considering hiring some of the sacked indigenous employees from the Gove operation.

The Australian Workers Union has previously warned closing the operation will destroy the region.

"We are talking about an entire town being destroyed here, $500 million wiped from the economy, and some of the most effective Indigenous employment and training programs in the country wiped out," AWU National Secretary Paul Howes said.

"Rio's casual abandonment of an entire town due to short term market conditions is a complete disgrace. While the AWU doesn't doubt for a second that tough conditions exist, those conditions will – inevitably – change over time.”

Both the Northern Territory and Federal Governments attempted to strike a deal with Rio to keep the refinery open.

But Rio said all scenarios were considered, including converting the refinery to gas power, but it has been unable to find a sustainable solution.

“There is nothing more the Northern Territory Government could’ve done to help secure a long-term future for the refinery,” Rio stated.

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