Shine wears off WA Goldfields with job losses

Western Australia is feeling the heat from the mining downturn as around 5000 jobs have gone in the state’s mining sector.

A survey by West Business found job cuts are happening in almost every commodity mined in WA, but gold and iron ore have taken the biggest hit.

The two commodities were the biggest employment creators in the sector, The West Australian reported.

The worst impact will be on Kalgoorlie after gold prices crumbled in April but the Kimberly, Rio Tinto’s Argyle mine and Albany have also faced job cuts.

Figures from the ANZ Job Ads Survey revealed a decline in job advertisements for the fourth month in a row yesterday, with WA worst hit.

As mining investment hits its peak and the boom slows down, job advertisements on the internet and in newspapers declined 1.8 per cent month-on-month in June.

Australian Mining reported in May jobless rates in WA hit peaks not seen since the GFC. The unemployment figure rate jumped 5.2 per cent in April, up from 4.8 per cent in March.

Figures were driven by a lift in the jobless rate of males in state which rose to 5.2 per cent, up from 4.6.

Gold heavyweights Newmont and Barrick Gold have said more cuts are on the way for WA employees.

Barrick Gold cut 55 jobs in Utah and Nevada last month with employees in support functions including human resources and administration given severance offers.

It cut 60 workers from its WA operations last month, with 22 workers from its Kanowna operation east of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

Barrick employs about 2500 people and operates Cowal mine in NSW, and under a joint venture agreement with Newmont it runs to Kalgoorlie Superpit.

Superpit is also looking at redundancies for its 1200 employees.

Northern Star Resources managing director Bill Beament said the gold sector has to reinvent itself if it is to survive falling gold prices and rising costs.

Barrick Gold was rumoured to be selling three gold mines in Western Australia to curtail debt and avoid a credit rating downgrade.

The survey also found mining contractors have been affected, with 680 jobs gone from the contracting industry.

Fortescue Metals Group cut jobs in September last year after iron ore prices crumbled.

But the Pilbara’s large mining workforce has been relatively safe from massive job cuts.

However experts believe this trend will not continue as mining giants BHP Billiton, Rio Tinto and Fortescue gradually slow down their iron projects and transition into less labour-intensive, more controlled production.

Other jobs linked to the mining services industry are also set to be affected, with thousands of jobs thought to have gone in catering, consultants and accommodation providers.

Industry insiders warn this trend of job losses will continue.

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