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Uncertain future for Clermont

The future of Rio Tinto’s Clermont and Blair Athol mines has locals worried about the long-term future for the town.
The future of Rio Tinto’s Clermont and Blair Athol mines has locals worried about the long-term future for the town.

FEARS more than 100 contractors have already faced the axe and that the closure of Rio Tinto's Blair Athol Coal Mine has been brought forward by at least 12 months to October has Clermont residents facing uncertain futures.

Rio Tinto would not comment on either matter yesterday, saying only that job redundancies were inevitable and a restructure of local operations, including Clermont Mine, was aimed at cutting costs.

Breckon Steel Fabrications owner Paul Breckon said the operational review touted by Rio Tinto into its Clermont Mine to improve market competitiveness had already taken its toll on his business.

Mr Breckon said the 45 full-time workers on his books had had their hours wound back in an attempt to retain staff, a move instigated following Rio Tinto's announcement last month.

"What's happened is they (Rio Tinto) have brought forward closing Blair Athol by 12-18 months from the 2014-2015 timeframe," Mr Breckon said, but could not clarify the information's source.

"It will be a bit of a double whammy for the town, certainly.

"But the mine was at the end of its life anyway."

MR Breckon said the fallout would be felt throughout the entire Clermont community, but since he began his business in 1986, he had endured two market downturns and had managed to bounce back from both.

But Gregory Fabrications owner Peter Seawright said if the speculated closure of Blair Athol and Clermont Mine were to become a reality he and his young family would lose everything.

Rio Tinto makes up 95% of his business, and he is six months into a $1.8 million upgrade, which he began in line with Clermont Mine.

"I'm very concerned about my family but, to be honest, I'm upbeat about it," Mr Seawright said.

"We will all be out of a job. I would lose my house and about 20 years of working to get where I am.

"It would mean taking the gamble (to upgrade) probably didn't work, but that's business, I guess."

The CFMEU, which has been negotiating new enterprise agreements with the resource giant since May, said it was yet to receive any further information regarding the company's immediate intentions at Clermont Mine.

"At this stage, the union understands that any potential cutbacks will be made at the support staff level and not at the coalface," a union spokesman said.

"The union looks forward to receiving further detail from the company so that it can engage in direct discussions with its Clermont members as to any potential workplace changes.

"Our focus is on ramping up Clermont Mine and identifying opportunities to reduce costs while doing this," the spokesman said.

"A review is under way, and although the details are to be worked out, it will unfortunately mean redundancies."

Clermont Mine produced 5.8 million tonnes of thermal coal in 2011, according to the company website, and runs its product to Blair Athol Mine via conveyer. It then sends it by train to the Dalrymple Bay Coal Terminal.


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