THE painful fat trimming continues for the Bowen Basin coal mining fraternity.
THE painful fat trimming continues for the Bowen Basin coal mining fraternity.

Towns hit wall as Rio cuts jobs

THE painful fat trimming continues for the Bowen Basin coal mining fraternity, and this time it's Rio Tinto wielding the knife.

It is understood that on Friday, all Category 3 contractors at Rio's Clermont Mine were told they were no longer needed. And yesterday about 10 Kestrel Mine staff from the business analysis unit, communications, administration and procurement sections were informed they were surplus to requirements.

Rio's host communities of Emerald and Clermont are already feeling the pinch.

Clermont business owner Paul Breckon said his 30-plus contractors had been withdrawn from the Clermont site over the past six weeks.

"We don't have a single contractor there today," Mr Breckon said.

"We're not getting any work and unfortunately if things were to continue like this I will be the one having to make lay-offs."

Following Rio's closure of Blair Athol, and the uncertainty coming from Clermont Mine, life in Clermont had ground to a standstill, Mr Breckon said.

"The town is bloody shot," Mr Breckon said.

"There's no confidence, nothing happening. It's dead quiet all over," he said.

"The other day I had a couple of suppliers call me up and ask what they had done wrong.

"I had to tell them, 'Nothing. I'm just not getting the work'."

Emerald Chamber of Commerce president Victor Cominos warned similar effects might be felt in Emerald soon, after the closure of the Gregory Mine left 55 full-time workers and 242 contractors out of work.

Xstrata also announced it would axe 600 workers.

"If it continues the way it is going, there will certainly be a loss of confidence, and a loss of confidence leads to a loss of spending," Mr Cominos said.

"Every dollar that comes into a town turns over three times before it leaves … so we are talking about big dollars here."

Mr Cominos said he believed there was now an oversupply of retailers in Emerald, leaving smaller businesses vulnerable.

"A lot of retailers have set up infrastructure in anticipation of a population increase," he said.

"Emerald seems to go up and then it stands still for a while, and it's the smaller people that I am concerned about surviving that flat-line," Mr Cominos said.

"Emerald will survive, but whether the same people will be in the same shops in 10 years is another question."


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