Jobs on line at Palmer's nickel refinery
The future of Clive Palmer's north Queensland nickel refinery remains in doubt after the mining magnate met with the state's treasurer.
Curtis Pitt held urgent talks with Mr Palmer at the government's executive building in Brisbane on Tuesday afternoon over the future of Queensland Nickel's Yabulu refinery near Townsville.
After the meeting, Mr Pitt said the government had met with the company "numerous times" to discuss its operation position, he said.
"Now, a few weeks before Christmas, he's come back threatening to close the business if the state doesn't bail him out," Mr Pitt said.
"If Clive Palmer makes a decision to close the refinery, that would be his decision alone."
Mr Pitt earlier accused the mining magnate of putting employees' futures in doubt.
Not only did Mr Palmer rush into the Brisbane building once he saw waiting media, but he also convinced security once the meeting finished to let him out through a back door, where a Mercedes was waiting for him.
The hasty exit came after Queensland Nickel sent a letter to its 700-odd employees on Tuesday, warning the refinery could close if employees themselves didn't join in to lobby the government for help.
In the letter, Managing Director Ian Ferguson warned them: "To do nothing, may see the refinery close."
It wasn't clear exactly what Queensland Nickel was trying to get out of the meeting, with Managing Director Clive Mensink issuing a statement early on Tuesday accusing the government of supporting Boyne Smelters in Gladstone with $40 million a year, but refusing to support the Yabulu refinery.
Mr Mensink said the government "needs to give the same level of priority to the people of Townsville that it gives to the people of Gladstone".
But he went on to say that Queensland Nickel wasn't seeking any funds from the government, rather a "guarantee on a short term basis secured by more than a billion dollars of assets".
Mr Pitt said the government wasn't at liberty to disclose anything relating to the company's financial position.
Australian Workers Union Queensland Branch secretary Ben Swan said he'd held a meeting with Mr Palmer, among others, on Tuesday to discuss the need for government assistance to keep the Yabulu operation afloat.
Union representatives were told the deterioration of nickel prices had put pressure on the site but this was likely to improve with China planning to reduce output in the new year.
As such, any government help afforded to Queensland Nickel would be relatively short-term, Mr Swan understood.
Mr Pitt also said the state of commodity prices had affected Queensland Nickel and was having a major impact across the resources industry.
Speculation the refinery could go into imminent administration came after Mr Palmer's private company, Mineralogy, on Monday lost a bid to force millions of dollars in "outstanding royalty payments" from an estranged Chinese joint venture partner.