Barry Fitzgerald. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian.
Barry Fitzgerald. Picture: Ian Munro/The West Australian.

Gina Rinehart's right-hand man on the Roy Hill project has slammed management thinking that has seen a new wave of job cuts across the iron ore industry.

Roy Hill chief executive Barry Fitzgerald said the project was profitable at any price and producers should be able to control costs as they pursued expansion.

Speaking at an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia lunch yesterday, Mr Fitzgerald said he was not concerned about the tumbling iron ore price - which has fallen about 30 per cent this year - as construction of the 55 million tonne-a-year Pilbara project ramps up.

He said the project was now about 45 per cent complete and was on track to ship first ore in September next year.

The falling price has seen other miners again revisit the cost of their operations but Mr Fitzgerald said Roy Hill had been planned as a low-cost operation.

"Definition of failure from my point of view would be if Roy Hill had to do a reorganisation and shed labour," he said.

"We are designing the whole business with the view of being a low-cost, margin-focused producer. That's what's driving our business, that's what's driving our planning, and we certainly intend to achieve it.

"I'm not criticising companies that went for incremental tonnes, I just find it sad that Australian management cannot focus on two things at once - like incremental tonnes and cost."

Mr Fitzgerald's comments come as BHP Billiton mulls major cuts to its iron workforce, and another 200 jobs were cut from the industry as Leighton Contractors lets 170 workers go as construction work at Fortescue Metals Group's Solomon project winds down.

A spokeswoman for Leighton said most of those to go were contractors or those engaged from labour hire providers. The company would seek to redeploy workers in other parts of its business where possible.

It is understood Atlas Iron has shed about 30 workers from its Perth head office and Pilbara operations, mostly from mid-level staff involved in mine expansion planning roles.

Atlas managing director Ken Brinsden yesterday confirmed a number of positions had gone. He said the imminent completion of the first construction phase at its Mt Webber project meant some roles were no longer necessary.

"As our overall North Pilbara project development activity reduces, it is inevitable that the nature of our workforce will change," he said.

"Atlas still has a fantastic project development pipeline and we will maintain the option for further growth. As project development gains pace down the track, our workforce will again change with it."

The West Australian

Popular videos

Our Picks

Follow Us

More from The West