The CFMEU claims Vale faces a $63 million bill over its plan to close the Integra coal mine complex in the Hunter Valley, fuelling rumours the mines have been sold.
Workers at Glennies Creek have been asked to stay at home on full pay, while the first round of redundancies at the Camberwell site are expected to begin in July.
Around 500 workers are set to lose their jobs when both sites go into care and maintenance modes.
The CFMEU’s Peter Jordan said the closure of the mines will prove costly for Vale as it will be forced to pay millions in cancelled contracts at the site as well as for port and rail contracts, The Singleton Argus reported.
“They informed us they will be cancelling a contract to cut coal and paying the $33 million dollar penalty that goes with this cancellation,” Jordan said.
“In addition they have not been relieved of their ‘take or pay’ obligations.”
Jordan said this port and rail access amounts to a further $30 million dollars a year.
“The fact the company appears to be throwing away around $60 million dollars is concerning and adds credibility to the rumour that the mine has been sold.
“We are hearing reports that the open cut mine has been sold to a Chinese company, the Shenhua Group who are involved in the Watermark project near Gunnedah and the closure is just about changing the workforce arrangements.”
However Jordan concedes that Vale has strongly denied a sale of the operation has occurred.
In a meeting on Friday, open cut employees were given details on staged redundancy schedules which are set to kick off in July and be finalised by August when the mine is expected to close.
Vale’s plans for the underground site have not yet been revealed.
Jordan speculated the site could close by June 28 when contract work to remove the longwall and other equipment is completed.
The union will meet with Vale again on Thursday and said it wants reassurances that if the mines reopen in the foreseeable future, the current workforce is given priority.
“There are a number of allegations and rumours going around at the moment, so we will be questioning the intentions of the company,” Jordan said.
“The replacement of a local permanent workforce with contract labour is a big concern.”
Coal prices have dropped more than 30 per cent over the past two years, forcing many companies to reassess their operations.
Multi-national miner Glencore announced production will be suspended at its Hunter Valley coal mine Ravensworth mine from September.
Also in NSW, Illawarra’s mining industry has seen a spate of job losses with 200 stripped out of the region’s coal industry in just 24 hours last week.