Last-ditch bid to save mine jobs

GEORGINA STYLIANOU AND NICOLE MATHEWSON
Last updated 05:00 24/09/2012

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Workers from Solid Energy's Spring Creek mine will march on Parliament tomorrow in "one last throw of the dice" to save it.

Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn will travel to Wellington where miners from Spring Creek and Huntly Eastwill plead with the Government to save their mines.

Kokshoorn said Solid Energy's board decidedits stance on Spring Creek's future on Friday. The Government will be handed the recommendation today, and an official announcement is expected this week.

Kokshoorn said he would meet with State-owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall to "try and make him see" that closing the mine was "not a good idea".

"They might have made their decision but we've got one more throw of the dice to try and get it changed," Kokshoorn said.

The loss of the mine would be "enormous" for Greymouth.

"We know the price of coal has gone down but that will change . . . but these workers have been loyal and there is still coal that hasn't been developed so it just doesn't make sense."

West Coast MP Damien O'Connor told the Sunday Star-Times that, after examining a Solid Energy strategic document, dated August 29, it seemed evident the miner planned to scale down operations in a bid to boost its balance sheet, making potential share sales more attractive to investors.

"The benefit from an asset sales perspective is to leave as much coal in the ground as you can and reduce the costs on top of the ground. That means getting rid of as many jobs and leaving the coal there," he said.

"That will crucify the Greymouth community just so the Government can get a better deal from its asset sales programme. That, in my view, is outrageous."

Yesterday, the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union said that mine workers would tomorrow present the Government with a plan devised by management and workers to keep the mines open.

Spring Creek miner and union delegate Trevor Bolderson said the plan showed the West Coast mine was viable, but the Government would need to provide some financial support to get the mine through the next couple of years.

“We're travelling to Wellington because we want the Government to understand what closing Spring Creek will mean for the local community."

The plan was not just about saving jobs, it was about "providing a future for Greymouth", he said.

“We're hoping to make them see that the economic and human cost of closing Spring Creek would be unconscionable.”

Huntly East miner and union delegate Brian Lynch said the long-term damage to his community could be just as great if the Government did not step up.

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“Solid Energy's proposal to cancel the Huntly East ventilation project is a very risky and short-term cost-saving strategy that could force the mine to stop production within two years.

“If Huntly East closes the community will suffer a body blow, and the downstream effects on the Glenbrook steel mill could be even greater . . . we'll be encouraging the Government to see the bigger picture.”

The miners will arrive at Parliament at 12pm tomorrow.

- The Press

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