Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Cape York mystery: "Trouble at mine"

Has there been any longer running soap opera in the Australian mining industry now than bauxite leases on Cape York? One can recall the outraged calls of "sovereign risk" when Peter Beattie moved to remove the leases from the French Pechiney back in 2003.

I am confused as to current status of which bauxite leases are actually which on Cape York but never mind. The leases removed from Pechiney I think went to Chinalco which then pulled out in 2010. Pechiney itself was acquired by Alcan which was then acquired by Rio Tinto which of course operates Weipa.

This week Rio seems to have put the entire South of Embley project near Weipa on hold, as reported in the Courier-Mail: Rio Tinto roller-coaster at Weipa
Driving that was the proposed $1.2 billion South of Embley project, which would potentially ramp up bauxite mining operations for the next four decades and deliver hundreds of jobs to the region. But with the project now shelved indefinitely after Rio's cost-slashing decision last week, the future of the town looks uncertain.
In Weipa last Monday , Rio president and chief executive of bauxite and alumina Pat Fiore gave no indication to the change of plans for SoE, saying it would go ahead "once all the planets had aligned" and a decision on a Land Court objection had been made.
While Rio says it is still proceeding with obtaining all regulatory approvals for the project, the company's shift in focus to iron ore no doubt dealt a disappointing blow to the 3500 residents of Weipa. About 1000 of those residents are employed by Rio, with 25 per cent of the workforce made up of indigenous employees.
Also a recent decision to establish the Steve Irwin Wildfire Reserve seems to have killed the Cape Alumina project at Pisolite Hills which had previously been declared a "significant project". My own contact, a much respected former professional colleague within Cape Alumina simply responded to a general query with:
"Campbell threw us in front of a bus"
This follows the contentious partisan politics which went on around the Wild Rivers policy and mining on Cape York under the previous government. Cape Alumina have not yet ruled out legal action apparently. The average punter could be forgiven for being confused!

One would think such significant events for the regional economy would be big news for the Cairns Post but apparently not so much a priority this week. They seem to have been too busy sending up smoke signals over Yorkeys Knob.

Update: The Cairns Post updates the news! Up to 400 face job loss as Cape Alumina abandons bauxite project near Weipa

No comments:

Post a Comment