Toowoomba feeling brunt of mining slump

The effects of the mining investment slowdown are trickling through southeast Queensland, with many Toowoomba businesses slashing jobs.

Toowoomba has been impacted by the coal mining downturn in the Bowen and Galilee basins, The Chronicle reported.

Toowoomba-based company Russell Mineral Equipment cut 13 engineering jobs yesterday. The company’s general manager Peter Rubie said the job cuts were unfortunate but indicative of the company’s position.

“We have had a reduction in demand for our mill relining machines,” Rubie said.

“It was a very difficult decision for us. We are a very tight-knit company that value its employees. However, due to the sharp drop-off in the mining sector we were unable to maintain those staffing levels.

“The downturn in the mining sector is definitely starting to take an effect,” he said.

Another Toowoomba company, Gieger Civil and Engineering, cut 20 jobs earlier this month after losing an Ergon Energy contract due to the slowdown in mining activity.

The company’s managing director John Geiger said yesterday the company was still optimistic on its prospects despite the mining slowdown.

“We had a long-term contract that finished last month,” Geiger said.

“Unfortunately it was not renewed so therefore we had to release 20 employees. On the positive side we were able to retain 20 employees associated with the contract,” he said.

The downturn in the coal sector is affecting the entire country. Australian Mining recently reported Lifeline saying financial counselling offices across the Hunter Valley are getting bombarded with people who have lost jobs and have no where to go.

The Hunter Valley coal mines have shed many jobs as production costs rise. GlencoreXstrata's Mount Owen open-cut coal mine shed 70 jobs recently, while Rio Tinto slashed 40 jobs at Mount Thorley Warkworth mine

Sandvik cut 26 jobs after announcing the closure of its hard materials facility in Mayfield.

Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise CEO Shane Charles said the job losses were distressing but pointed out they were not alone.

“Both Geiger Civil and Electrical and Russell Mineral Equipment are outstanding companies,” Charles said.

“It is really disappointing for them. There is no harder thing to do in business than shed staff. Another Toowoomba company recently did not have their coal contract renewed resulting in 60 FIFO workers losing their jobs.

“However, the majority of those workers were not Toowoomba-based,” he said.

Charles said the coal sector was in trouble at the moment.

“Businesses in Toowoomba that are involved in coal mining, or provide services to the sector, have noted a very significant tightening. Fortunately our region is not too heavily affected by the downturn in the mining sector.”

Charles said the gas and energy industries were sheltering Toowoomba from the mining downturn.

“Fortunately our region is not too heavily affected by the downturn in coal mining,” he said.

“The energy sector is still very much booming. It will continue to be a big player for many years to come.”

One industry association said over 9000 jobs have been cut in Australia's coal sector in the past 15 months.

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