Mining and Heavy Industries

Worker pain as Queensland Nickel collapses

A nickel ore ship at Townsville, where (inset) Clive Palmer's Yabulu refinery processes it. Photo: Chris Mackey / Southern Cross Maritime. (Inset: Creative Commons / Benjamin J Macdonald)

The Queensland and Federal governments are preparing to help workers who have lost their jobs after Clive Palmer’s Queensland Nickel refinery went into voluntary administration on Monday.

Roughly 550 more workers could lose their jobs at the hands of administrators at the refinery in Yabulu, near Townsville. 237 were already sacked on Friday, just three days prior to the voluntary administration announcement.

Federal MP Ewen Jones, whose electorate includes the refinery, has reportedly supported an investigation into the finances of Palmer’s refinery, as accusations abound relating to how the mining magnate-turned politician has conducted business in an undeniably difficult global nickel market.

Jones said the Commonwealth would look to help workers in the wake of the administration announcement.

“News of administrators being appointed at Queensland Nickel confirms the extent of affairs within the company,” Jones said on Monday.

“At least now with administrators being appointed, they will be able to provide some clarity to the workforce and wider community in due course of what the company’s options are going forward.

“I want to assure the workers, their families and the wider Townsville community every avenue will be explored by our government to seek a future for this company.”

Jones thinks the government can find a home for the refinery “as part of the supply chain in the manufacturing of steel”.

State minister assisting the premier on North Queensland Coralee O’Rourke said workers were encouraged to engage with government information sessions being held in the region.

“State Government representatives have had a positive meeting with the administrator where we have agreed to continue to share information and work together as appropriate,” O’Rourke said.

“We have emphasized that our priority is the employees.

“Our focus is firmly on the employees and accelerating our capital works program to make jobs available in the north and throughout regional Queensland.”

Meanwhile the AFR has reported Queensland-based rail operator Aurizon could be one of the biggest losers in the collapse, as one of Queensland Nickel’s biggest creditors at present.

The Fairfax paper reported on Tuesday that Aurizon, which moves nickel from the refinery to the Port of Townsville, is owed as much as $27m by the company.

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