Mt Vickery mine to close

February 25, 1998

Mt Vickery mine to close

By Alison Dellit

NEWCASTLE — On February 17, Rio Tinto announced the closure of the Mt Vickery coal mine, outside Gunnedah.

The company claimed the closure is due to a fall in the price of coal. Despite huge coal reserves, it will not be sold even though several companies have expressed interest in buying the mine. If the mine were sold, the 52 jobs at the mine could be maintained.

Rio Tinto announced it wishes to retain the lease, and it will consider reopening the mine if the price of coal increases by 50%.

The closure comes a mere 15 months after the end of a bitter 12-month strike at the mine caused by management's attempt to introduce 12-hour shifts. Many of the workers about to lose their jobs are still recovering financially.

The courageous struggle at the Mt Vickery mine helped to make it more difficult for Rio Tinto to proceed with its open-slather union-busting proposals.

Rio Tinto is the biggest mining company in the world. It is renowned for attempts to destroy unionism at its mines to drive down conditions.

The closure of the mine will be a blow to the region. Just three years ago, 1500 people worked for the company in northern NSW. By June, that figure will be around 700. At the same time, real wages have not increased for the remaining workers, and longer shifts and more "flexible" hours have become standard.

The CFMEU has decided to pursue legal action to force Rio Tinto to sell the mine. A decision on whether to include industrial action has not been made.

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