How the huge fallout from Mt Isa closures will roll through the state

The fallout from the mine closures at Mt Isa will be significant with State and Federal Governments tipped to lose about $1 billion a year.

Oct 18, 2023, updated Oct 18, 2023
True North will re-open the Great Australian Mine after Glencore announced the shutdown of three copper mines (Photo: Glencore)

True North will re-open the Great Australian Mine after Glencore announced the shutdown of three copper mines (Photo: Glencore)

Glencore announced today the closure of the three copper mines it owns in the city as well as the copper concentrator. About 1200 jobs were at risk.

The copper smelter and refinery have been given a life until 2030.

The impact of the closures will roll on through politics, the economy and business. Even the city’s real estate market was expected to be hit as miners leave the city for work elsewhere.

The State Government has already announced a support package of up to $50 million for mine workers and the Mt Isa community, $30 million of which will go towards accelerating other mining projects in the region and $20 million, to be matched dollar-for-dollar by Glencore, for an economic structural adjustment package for Mt Isa and north west Queensland.

But Mt Isa is also the power base not only for the Katter political dynasty but also the Australian Workers Union. It is also the heart of the north west minerals province and the unexploited estimated $500 billion in mineral resources.

The LNP resources spokesman Pat Weir said the decision would create great uncertainty for the community and businesses of Mt Isa and the impact the decision would have could not be overstated.

Analysts Delta Pearl posted today that the mine closure was devastating economic blow.

“We have analysed the Mount Isa economy for years. Apart from being an economic powerhouse, Mount Isa acts as a primary service centre for a huge part of the Australian land mass.

“A few years ago we modelled that the Australian treasury earns about $800 million per annum in various taxes from Mount Isa economic activity, which is driven primarily by the Mount Isa mine.

“And the Queensland treasury earns about $200 million annually.

“The impact of the closure, in absolute economic impact terms, will, curiously enough, be greatest in Brisbane. In relative terms, the biggest impact after Mount Isa is Townsville, and the impact there will be substantial and will flow through the entire value chain and the property market.

“If the smelter closes too that will imperil other copper miners as well as the sulphuric acid supply chain.”

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said for 100 years, Mount Isa had been part of Queensland’s mining heritage while the AWU called it a “sad day”.

“We’re determined Mount Isa and North West Queensland will be at the heart of our state’s mining future as well,” the Premier said.

“Our number one priority is to protect jobs and retain skilled workers in this important region. I understand many workers and their families will find Glencore’s decision a difficult one to accept, but we will always do what we can to support workers and their families to find new good, secure jobs.

“North West Queensland is central to the delivery of critical minerals needed for global decarbonisation and skilled workers like those at Glencore are vital for this new industry that is set to generate thousands of jobs.”

Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment Cameron Dick said the news of the planned closure of the underground copper mine, the copper concentrator in particular would cause a lot of uncertainty for the people of Mount Isa.

“My message today is clear. Our Government will back your city and your region all the way.

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“Now I’m calling on Glencore to play its part and make a financial contribution to the economic support package, over and above their obligations to these workers.”

“This is an incredibly sad day for the entire Mount Isa community,” AWU state secretary Stacey Schinnerl said.

“AWU members at Mount Isa Mines have been delivering for the Queensland economy for almost a century.

“They have generated billions of dollars in revenue for the Queensland Government and resources companies like Glencore.

“Now is the time for the Government and Glencore to provide our members the support that they have always provided them.

“Glencore have been using foreign labour and FIFO labour hire on their other operations in the region. It is our expectation that local workers who are affected by these closures are given priority access to these roles.

“This is a fight for Mount Isa, the capital of the north west minerals province and the epicentre of the next mining boom.”

Emma Harman from Commerce North West said while the closure  may be a blow for town immediately she did not believe “that they have signed the death warrant for this great city”.

“The Glencore owned Led zinc assets at George Fisher have at least another decade left in them and possibly longer. Junior miners are undergoing exploration all the time in the region and are turning up some fantastic results,” she said.

“North West Phosphate are just about to open their mine nearby, and one of Queensland’s richest cobalt deposits is in the Mt Isa mine tailings. As the global demand for copper continues to grow exponentially and the region’s critical minerals are discovered and mined, this town will live on.”


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