Mining jobs under threat

Up to 15 jobs are believed to be on the line at OceanaGold's head office in Dunedin as the company continues a review of its operations prompted by a significant fall in the gold price and a strong Kiwi dollar.

The goldminer told the market last month that it planned to reduce its operating budgets by US$100 million, mainly in the New Zealand business, in the next 18 months.

The whole of the OceanaGold business, which includes a gold and copper mine in the Philippines, was under review, the company said then.

OceanaGold Corporation has New Zealand's largest gold mining operation at the Macraes goldfield in Otago which is made up of the Macraes Open Pit and the Frasers Underground mines.

The Amalgamated Workers Union represents about half of the 600 workers employed at Macraes.

Union secretary Calvin Fisher told The Press he understood OceanaGold had announced on Friday that up to 15 of the 60 jobs at the miner's Dunedin head office would go.

Fisher said the union had been negotiating with the company since the end of June - coincidentally the five collective agreements the union had on site expired "on or about the same time [the price of] gold plummeted" he said.

The world market price for gold has plunged from US$1700 an ounce at the start of the year, to about US$1365 an ounce yesterday.

In June the miner said the plunging gold price had prompted it to mothball its West Coast Globe Progress mine, near Reefton, from mid-2015, cutting its life by two years.

This week and next week staff in the affected areas at Macraes would be considering proposals they had been given and making a decision, Fisher said.

"We're working our way through the agreements on the sites ... and it would be unfair for me to comment through the newspaper as to where they're at but we should have the documents settled in the next couple of weeks."

There were a number of different proposals for staff in different parts of the business, which made it difficult to estimate how many more jobs might go, Fisher said.

"There are a number of different approaches - we are trying to maintain skills, make savings and keep the life of mine going against the high dollar and still low price of gold."

"This is a serious operation which impacts significantly on the Otago region and has a lot of tentacles out to subcontractors and suppliers," Fisher said.

"This is a significant employer injecting tens of millions [of dollars] into the Otago economy."

OceanaGold shares closed at $2.30 yesterday, 8 cents or 25 per cent lower than year-ago levels.