900 mining jobs to go in NSW and Queensland
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Reporter: John Stewart
Xstrata coal has announced the loss of 600 jobs from mines in the Bowen Basin in Queensland and the Hunter Valley in New South Wales and BHP Billiton will close its open-cut operations at the Gregory coal mine near Emerald next month with the loss of a further 300 jobs. The cuts have been blamed on falling coal prices.
EMMA ALBERICI, PRESENTER: BHP Billiton and Xstrata today announced a total of 900 jobs will be cut from the resources sector in Queensland and New South Wales. The mining companies are blaming rising costs, falling commodity prices and the high Australian dollar.
John Stewart reports on the latest reversal of fortunes for the mining industry.
JOHN STEWART, REPORTER: BHP Billiton today announced it will close the Gregory coal mine near the Queensland town of Emerald. Three hundred jobs will go. The open cut mine has been operating since 1979. The mining industry says that tough times are ahead.
MICHAEL ROCHE, QUEENSLAND RESOURCES COUNCIL: Well certainly the days of easy money on the back of high commodity prices is behind us. The hard work is ahead of us of growing volumes, boosting productivity, getting costs down and holding on or growing our market share. So it's tough work from here.
JOHN STEWART: Xstrata Coal has also announced that 600 jobs will be cut from mines in Queensland's Bowen Basin and the NSW Hunter Valley.
With a dozen sites in two states, Xstrata hasn't outlined exactly where the jobs will be lost, but the company says the cuts will affect both contract and permanent positions.
The Queensland Premier says that in the current climate, workers need to show restraint in wage claims.
CAMPBELL NEWMAN, QUEENSLAND PREMIER: I do make the point that it's quite appropriate that workers should share the rewards of the good times. But I do sort of ask everybody in the coal industry to recognise now that prices are off. It's not a time to be asking for huge increases in prices from subcontractors or indeed high pay rises for employees.
JOHN STEWART: But the miners’ union says that while labour costs are higher in Australia than some overseas countries, there are still many benefits for multinational companies operating in Australia.
ANDREW VICKERS, CFMEU, MINING AND ENERGY DIVISION: The reserves and the resources in Australia are so good. They are located so close to the coast. We have a marketing advantage, we have a freight advantage, we have a climate advantage - none of our mines get frozen for six months of the year like they do in places like Siberia and the northern parts of Canada. And we have significant political security, which isn’t the case in many developing countries.
STEPHEN SMYTH, CFMEU: A lot of them are still announcing enormous huge profits. So, you know, I'd like to think it's not profits before people. A lot of people are unsure about their future. We say the industry's still good, it's still strong and it'll pick up, but at this stage, for those that have been affected, it's a terrible situation.
JOHN STEWART: Today's job cuts come after last week's shock announcement by Fortescue Metals that it would cut 1,000 jobs in response to a plunge in iron ore prices.
BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto have also shelved billions in investment plans as the outlook for demand from China becomes less certain.
The mining industry is also concerned about any future increases in government taxes.
MICHAEL ROCHE: Well I think there was a misconception that projects are impregnable, that you can throw any extra costs, any extra taxes at a resource project and they will keep standing tall and will keep rolling on.
JOHN STEWART: Resource analysts are anticipating more coal production cuts and layoffs.
John Stewart, Lateline.