Hard times on Coast

Last updated 12:00 14/06/2014

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A further 60 West Coast mining jobs appear likely to be lost.

Employees at OceanaGold Corporation's Reefton gold mine were told this week redundancies were likely as the company downsized the West Coast mine, bringing the total number of jobs in the Buller region expected to be lost in the coming months to about 250.

In June 2013, the Australian company announced it would wind down the Reefton operation and head into a "care and maintenance phase" by mid-2015.

OceanaGold head of business development Darren Klinck confirmed that "mining movements" would be substantially less from the third quarter of this year.

"As a result we'll be reducing the operations staff; this has been known for a year now," he said.

The Globe Progress opencast mine employs about 240 staff.

Engineers, Printing and Manufacturing Union West Coast organiser Garth Elliott said he had been involved in talks with OceanaGold all week, and that the company announced the proposals to affected staff on Tuesday and Wednesday.

He understood there would be 61 mine operations workers made redundant, but the consultation period would not end until July 7.

The announcement came a week after Solid Energy proposed 187 employees and contractors at its Stockton coal mine would be made redundant.

Elliott said the union was consulting with Solid Energy over the Stockton redundancies. That process was likely to take until mid-July before workers knew who would still have jobs.

Solid Energy said last week the Stockton restructure was driven by low international coal prices and a high kiwi.

Buller mayor Garry Howard said the 250 total job losses would be "tough on the West Coast community".

The OceanaGold mine had a positive effect on employment in Reefton, he said, as well as those workers who commuted from Greymouth and Westport.

With few job opportunities on the West Coast, Howard accepted that some families would be forced to leave the area. That would in turn affect local businesses and social services, he said.

Elliot said OceanaGold had kept workers "up to speed" on the future of the Reefton mine.

The date for the mine's closure had changed several times and "at one stage it was extended to 2017", but dropping international gold prices brought the closure back to 2015.

It would be hard for the workers who would lose their jobs, especially considering last week's Stockton announcement meant there were not many jobs available for them to move to, he said.

"It's going to be a hard time on the West Coast," Elliot said.

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- Fairfax Media

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