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Monday, October 03, 2005

Renison sacks 200 and closes down

The Mercury: Renison sacks 200 and closes down [04oct05]

PLUMMETING tin prices have forced the closure of the Renison Bell tin mine near Zeehan, putting 200 people out of work.

Mine owner Bluestone Tin said it had temporarily suspended mining pending higher tin prices, retrenching its workforce in a move that could cost the West Coast economy $280 million.

It comes less than a year after the mine resumed production following closure in 2003.

The decision has shocked the nearby town of Zeehan and wider region.

Bluestone managing director Peter Cook said the company was disappointed that the tin price had dropped to a point where it could no longer continue to operate the Renison underground on its own.

We're not walking away but preparing to grow and be stronger in this tin business," Mr Cook said. "This decision by no means reflects the potential of the Renison Mine.

"It reflects prudent financial and operational management of the company and the preparedness of the company to make the hard decisions in this time of lower tin prices."

Since Bluestone launched its prospectus last year tin has fallen from $13,000 a tonne to a low of $8400 a tonne on September 19.

"Quite simply, at current productivity levels and tin prices the Renison operation is not a viable proposition," Mr Cook said.

But without a definite re-start time Bluestone is terminating its workforce and will shut down its major contractor and service providers.

Infrastructure, Resources and Energy Minister Bryan Green said yesterday the news from Renison was at odds with most of the other recent announcements about West Coast mining.

"Bluestone Tin has invested more than $50 million in developing Renison and investigations at the old Bischoff Mine in the past year, so I'm confident it will re-open when the price recovers," he said.

"The job prospects of the Bluestone workers are bright, given the growth of the industry and the sector's ongoing skills shortage."

But Australian Workers Union industrial officer Robert Flanagan said the move by Bluestone came as a shock and a real disappointment.

He said most of the workers were on Australian Workplace Agreements. If they had worked less than a year, they would receive no redundancy payment.

"That's the danger of AWAs; and it is a really difficult time," Mr Flanagan said.

Many would look at relocating to another state to find work.

"It's too early to tell how many," he said.

West Coast Mayor Darryl Gerrity said the closure was a great blow to the West Coast.

"Fortunately the economic environment at the moment is good and we hope the slack can be taken up by other industries," he said.

"I do feel for those who have come back and bought houses and taken out loans in the view the industry is stable."

A recent independent study by Latrobe University revealed Bluestone Tin was worth $280.5 million a year to the West Coast.

It generated an additional 460 jobs and represented 24.89 per cent of the West Coast productivity, and nearly 2 per cent of state productivity.


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