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900 jobs to go at coal miners
900 jobs to go at coal miners

Employment in the resources industry took another blow today when 900 jobs were lost in the coal-mining industry.

Xstrata Coal announced it would cut 600 jobs from its operations in Queensland and NSW and BHP Billiton's decision to close its Queensland Gregory open-cut mine will cost 297 jobs.

Swiss-owned Xstrata Coal, who blamed falling coal prices and the high Australian dollar for the cuts, said contractors and permanent Xstrata Coal staff would be affected.

It did did not reveal how many jobs will be cut from each of its sites.

Most of Xstrata Coal's Australian operations are located in the Hunter Valley in NSW and Queensland's Bowen Basin.

The company employs 16,000 people worldwide, and says the majority are located in Australia.

Xstrata Coal said the job cuts would be made as it scaled back high cost production at some of its mines.

"We do not expect a material impact on Australian production volumes," the company said.

"We are also reducing some roles at our corporate headquarters in Sydney and consolidating our office-based operations in Queensland."

The restructure was implemented in response to "industry-wide pressures including low coal prices, high input costs and a strong Australian dollar against the US dollar," Xstrata Coal said.

Approved growth and expansion projects, at Ravensworth North and Ulan West in NSW and Rolleston in Queensland would proceed as planned, it said.

Xstrata Coal is based in Sydney, and is controlled by Switzerland-based-based resources giant Xstrata.

The Swiss company's nickel arm, Xstrata Nickel Australiasia which is based in Perth, operates the Cosmos operation and Sinclair open-pit mine in the northern Goldfields near Leinster.

The Cosmos project employs 600 people.

The move by the BHP Billiton Mitsubishi Alliance comes after a review found the 33-year-old open-cut mine was no longer profitable.

Coking and thermal coal prices have been falling while high costs and a strong Australian dollar have also hurt the operation, BHP said in a statement on Monday.

The job cuts affect 55 direct employees and 242 contractors, a BHP spokesman said.

Production will stop on October 10, when the mine will be put on a care and maintenance program, meaning it could reopen if conditions improve.

BMA's mines in Queensland's Bowen Basin were the scene of industrial action, including strikes, earlier this year over an enterprise bargaining agreement offer.

BMA Asset president Stephen Dumble said production costs for the open-cut Gregory mine now exceed the revenue from product sales, and the company had not option but to cease production.

"We understand that this decision will have an impact on our employees, their families and the Emerald community," he said in a statement.

"We will work closely with our workforce and look for opportunities to redeploy affected employees to other BMA operations."

The adjacent Crinum underground mine will continue to operate along with the Gregory Coal Handling Preparation Plant.

Production stopped at BHP Billiton's loss-making Norwich Park coal mine in central Queensland in May.

The union representing coal workers has attacked BHP Billiton and Xstrata plans, saying workers were paying for management’s mistakes.

Neither of the mining giants had consulted workers or the union before announcing their plans, onstruction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union general secretary (mining) Andrew Vickers said.

The companies had been conned into thinking Chinese double-digit economic growth would go on indefinitely and expanded the coal industry too rapidly, he said.

"This is an absolutely typical reaction from coal mining companies, when either the price cycle or demand cycle comes off the boil,” he told AAP.

"They sack our people, our members. Get rid of jobs, that’s their answer to every problem.

"These blokes are paid millions of dollars each year to make these big decisions, they make them and we clean up the mess and they leave at the end of it."