BUSINESS leaders are positive about the city’s future despite a wave of public concern after news of Glencore Xstrata’s Mount Isa Mines’ prediction its local copper operations could cease by 2019.
The North West Star came under fire and wore the brunt of the response towards the revelations, titled “Is this the end?” in Friday’s edition. But many have come forward with positive outlooks for the city beyond current copper operations at the mine, saying it was simply the natural “ebb and flow” of the mining industry
Several mine workers told The North West Star that General Manager for Mount Isa Copper Operations at Xstrata Copper Mike Westerman addressed a group of employees on Thursday morning at the mine site.
The employees said Mr Westerman stated the feasibility study for the Mount Isa Open Pit (MIOP) project, which would have increased the mine’s life by 30 years, was too expensive and copper operations would either close in 2019 or operate until 2021 as a non-profit venture.
When asked for a response from Xstrata, a spokesperson said they would not be making any comment, describing The North West Star’s story as painting a negative “doom and gloom” picture of the city and the future of the mine.
The final decision to shelve the MIOP project follows similar announcements from across Glencore Xstrata’s Australian operations, including the canning of a coal port north of Gladstone, following the Glencore merger.
However, business elsewhere is booming with the company announcing the opening of a new coal port in Columbia late last month.
Despite public reaction to the re-evaluated operation date of underground copper mining at Mount Isa Mines, Glencore Xstrata’s zinc operations were still predicted to continue until 2023, guaranteeing employment in the city for at least another decade.
Deputy mayor and business owner Cr Brett Peterson said he had weathered the ups and downs of operating in a mining town during the 30 years he has spent in the industry.
“In 1983 people were saying the lead mine only had six months to go and that was a strong rumour in town but it kept going for another 20 years,” he said.
“Century mine was going to shut a few years ago but other technology has come along to help them extract the metals and process the mineral.
“With the open cut at the moment they (Glencore Xstrata) have to learn how to treat the ore.”
Mr Peterson urged residents to continue supporting local businesses, eating out, buying petrol and looking for new homes, saying the impact of this news on the city would be what people made of it.
“The impacts on the city are only as big as the residents want it to be at the end of the day,” he said.
“The worst thing we could possibly do in moving forward is not spend any money just in case.
“Mount Isa isn’t going anywhere and neither is the industry but the retail and commercial industry in this town can only take a hit for so long until it does have an impact on the bottom line.”
The possible decline in fly-in, fly-out workers was dubbed as a positive step for the city and Mr Peterson said opportunities for Mount Isa would grow with or without the open pit project.
“If you have a look at the minerals base (in Mount Isa) we have a very secure future without being reliant on one commodity,” he said.
“The future of Mount Isa at the end of the day is supporting and servicing the mining industry and no one else can do it as well as we can, based where we are.
“That’s why we have industry leaders based in Mount Isa, because we service the whole province.”
Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce president Lorena Martyr said the city was sitting on one of the largest mineral deposits in the world and businesses would continue working together get the most out of the industry.
Member of the Mount Isa Chamber of Commerce and Malouf Auto Group Dealer Principal Paul Malouf said his business was far from in decline, with car sales at his newly renovated car yard smashing records for the last three months.
“Despite the negativity surrounding the Glencore merger we continue to do business and do it well and have been breaking our own records,” he said.
“We are not planning to downsize, we’re growing every aspect of our business and we want to be here.”
Mr Malouf estimated their renovations pumped $3 million back into the local economy, an investment Cr Peterson agreed needed to continue in light of recent news.
Mount Isa Mayor Tony McGrady said he had discussed the future of the mining giant’s Mount Isa operations and revealed its first major change would involve phasing out contractors.
For the original editorial, click here: http://www.northweststar.com.au/story/1560362/mining-will-fuel-our-citys-future/?cs=190