Quarter of Macraes Mine jobs to go

MARTA STEEMAN AND WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 07:01 09/01/2014

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OceanaGold Corporation is proposing to slash up to 25 per cent of the workforce at New Zealand's biggest goldmine because of plummeting gold prices.

The casualties will be direct employees and contractors' staff at the Macraes goldfield in Central Otago.

The main union on the site acknowledged it could be 200 jobs lost at the goldfield, although numbers have not been finalised.

The company delivered the "devastating" news to some employees and subcontracted staff on Tuesday.

Others were being told today.

"In general terms it is 25 per cent of the workforce onsite including contractors and subcontractors," Secretary of the Amalgamated Workers union Calvin Fisher said.

About 400 positions would remain, he said.

The $100 million Macraes mine wage bill would drop by a quarter.

The impact on the region and small towns like Palmerston and Waikouaiti where many workers lived was huge.

"It's devastating for those people," Fisher said.

Between now and January 20 consultation between the company, the workers and the union would determine who would be affected.

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the job losses were substantial.

The news was hard to take as it added to a string of job losses throughout Otago in recent years because of closures or downsizing, he said.

"It's difficult to be positive in the light of these kinds of announcements," he said.

Christie said the only hope was that the workforce would be restored when gold prices recovered.

However, the impact on laid-off employees and their families, and the effects on businesses and contractors in the small Palmerston community, would be significant, he said.

Christie could see Otago losing another set of skilled workers as a result, with many of those laid off possibly leaving the region for other parts of New Zealand or overseas.

Gold has been on the rebound so far this year after losing nearly 30 per cent last year, ending a 12-year run of rising prices, according to Reuters. However, gold prices are expected to remain weak for the first half of 2014.

Gold is currently trading at US$1228.19 an ounce ($1481.45).

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- Fairfax Media

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