Kununurra can withstand the force of any blow to its economy from planned job cuts at Argyle Diamonds, according to Kununurra
Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Brad Williams.
Mining giant Rio Tinto is set to slash jobs at Argyle Diamonds as part of cost cutting intended to position its flagship Australian diamond mine for sale, or before it is floated on the stock exchange.
The move comes only months before Rio is due to complete work on a trouble-plagued $2.2 billion expansion of the pink diamond producing mine.
The cuts are the first major step by new Argyle mines boss Kim Truter, who took the reins in July after Rio announced its diamond division was for sale.
It is understood the company began talks with workers last week, seeking to shed as many as 80 of its 500-strong workforce.
Rio is targeting mid-level managers and it is understood that operational and mine staff in the Kimberley will not be affected.
In July, Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese emailed all staff, outlining plans to cut service and support costs at least 10 per cent across the company’s global operations.
Since then, Rio has shed workers in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria.
A spokeswoman for Rio Tinto confirmed job cuts at Argyle were looming but said firm numbers had not been decided.
“Like others in the industry, Argyle is facing increasing costs,” she said. “We are looking at ways to make savings across the business.
“We cannot do this effectively without reducing employee costs and, unfortunately, this does mean some roles will no longer be needed.
“We understand how difficult this is for the people affected and will do all we can to help.”
KCCI president Brad Williams said the impact of Argyle cost cutting on the local economy would be minimal.
“We don’t see the job reductions at Argyle Diamonds as being likely to have a major impact in the Kununurra community because the diamond mine is well supported by other industries such as agriculture and tourism,” he said.
Mr Williams said the region had remained strong when construction of the Argyle underground project slowed in 2009 after the global financial crisis.
“The sky is not falling, there is still millions of dollars worth of diamonds in the ground and someone’s got to dig them out,” he said.
Rio Tinto has been trying to sell its diamond division – including Argyle and mines in Canada and Zimbabwe – since March.
The division posted a $38 million loss last financial year.
Argyle is thought to be unlikely to find a buyer until the underground expansion is completed.