Patrick Hamilton

Resources war sees jobs lost

JOB losses from Rio Tinto's Clermont coal mine in Central Queensland are likely to be the first casualties of the resources industry's war on rising costs and market uncertainty.

Rio Tinto is understood to be targeting support staff at the mine, with coalface workers protected from any bloodletting.
Clermont's thermal coal exports have been hit hard by lower prices, which fell $30 per tonne in just the past six months.

BT investment firm's resources analyst Tim Barker said Rio Tinto, along with its peers, will fight to save money and to keep a rising share price.

If cutting jobs leads to a stronger price, that could benefit the many Australians who have heavily invested their superannuation into the resources industry.

"In a sense, there's an interesting side to that one," he said.

"Most people have some exposure in a sense through their superannuation."

He said like Australia's car industry, it was time for mining companies to save money if they were to remain profitable.

"Prices (for coal) are lower than they were 12 months ago, but they are not low historically.

"But costs are substantially higher than they have been in the past.

"At the end of the day, they are trying to manage that margin."

As to the number of workers that could be lost from the industry, Mr Barker said it was up to the mining companies to make that decision.

"Companies are expected to manage their cost base, maximise their returns for the company and try to manage operations as efficiently as they can," Mr Barker said.

"It's up to them to decide how to best make those returns."

He said considering the demand for workers throughout the industry, they may be snapped up quite swiftly.

"But don't forget this is an industry that is seeking workers in a wide range of places so workers in the mining industry tend to be more mobile than in other industries."

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