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Glencore blamed for botching management of Mt Isa mine, leaving a city on the brink

Mount Isa MP Robbie Katter is livid and does not buy the Glencore story that the city’s famous copper mines were no longer viable.

Oct 20, 2023, updated Oct 20, 2023
Mt Isa MP Robbie Katter is angry about the Glencore plan (file photo)

Mt Isa MP Robbie Katter is angry about the Glencore plan (file photo)

Katter unleashed on Glencore and the State Government claiming both have botched the handling of the long-term future of the  copper mines and smelter that provide the lifeblood of the outback community.

Glencore announced this week that it would close the mines by 2025 threatening 1200 jobs and seriously affecting the economy of Mt Isa.

But Katter claims there are buyers, including former Fortescue boss Nev Power who he said may be representing someone else.

“Nev Power is one who is interested but when they go to buy it, they realise they have to buy the whole shebang. So, they have to buy a port, the refinery, the smelter and the mines.

“You can’t pull them apart, they all run together.’’

He said the Government has just accepted Glencore’s story and handed over a $50 million support package that would have been better spent on finding and helping a new buyer of the assets.

The Government has said it would happily deliver the $50 million to a new buyer if one was found because that would solve the problem.

A spokesman for the Treasurer said: “If a proponent were able to demonstrate to the Government they can keep the copper mine open as a going concern, we would be willing to support them with the entire $50 million announced this week.”

Katter said Glencore had failed to do long term planning and there was plenty of ore still in the ground but it was tricky and deep.

“They sold Ernest Henry and told locals there was only a few years left in the mine. A junior miner (Evolution) came in with less access to capital and they said they thought there was another 20 years in it,’’ Katter said.

“So, we have a recent working example that suggests they are just unwilling to make any long term plans, which is not consistent with long term mine management.

“They are still trying to sell the thing and it is unviable for them to keep going, but there are people are lining up at the door to buy it and the stupid, bloody Treasurer comes out here and says I’m essentially confirming that this is happening and I’ll give you some softening money which will go nowhere to filling the void.

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“I was being polite but I’m coming out all guns blazing now.’’

Glencore said it had been very clear that it was not shutting down Mt Isa Mines.

“We remain committed to Mt Isa and the long-term future of our operations,” a company spokesman said.

“We’re continuing to invest in Mt Isa Mines, including $60 million in exploration in 2023-24 and investigating potential future projects.

“After more than 60 years the underground copper operations will close in the second half 2025 as the remaining mineral resources are not economically viable due to low ore grades and areas where, due to geological conditions, safe extraction can’t be achieved using current technology.

“We will continue to operate our George Fisher Mine, with a current life of mine to 2036, our zinc-lead concentrator and our lead smelter.  Our copper smelter will continue to play an important role in supporting a number of junior and mid-tier mining companies across the north-west minerals province.”

 

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