Business

Boom isn't over: Nicholls

THE closure of Rio Tinto's Blair Athol coal mine in Central Queensland does not signal "the end of the mining boom", Queensland Treasurer Tim Nicholls said Thursday.

Up to 170 workers have been told their jobs will likely disappear before December as the Clermont mine progressively winds down the operation after 30 years.

Clermont operations general manager Dawid Pretorius said it was time for the mine to call it a day.

"Blair Athol Mine's coal seams are largely mined out and the time has come to finish production," he said.

Mr Pretorius said the 2012 closure had been tentatively in place since 2005, but low prices for Blair Athol's thermal coal - used to generate electricity - cemented the decision.

"Unfortunately, the recent significant drop in thermal coal prices, and other factors such as rising costs and the foreign exchange rate mean this is no longer a feasible option and we will keep to the original plan to finish production in 2012," Mr Pretorius said.

Mr Nicholls said the move was not a sign of things to come - pointing to companies looking at investing in new mines in the Galilee Basin and expanding existing mines near Moranbah.

"I think mining in Queensland has a long way to go," he said.

"I think the closure of the Blair Athol mine needs to be seen in the context that it is a mine that has been played out.

Of the 170 staff and contractors on the site, 30 would be kept on to run parts of the site will still be used by nearby Clermont Mine.

Workers will also be kept to help begin the giant task of rehabilitating the site.

According to Rio Tinto, the majority of workers have requested a redundancy deal, however Rio will also help employees to find other roles whether inside or outside of the company through its "My Future Plan" program.

Topics:  blair athol coal mine, rio tinto, tim nicholls



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