Gold win sparks jobs move
Summary: Gold miner Northern Star Resources will accelerate plans to start a formal apprenticeship program in Kalgoorlie-Boulder before the end of the calendar year after Labor’s plan to raise the gold royalty rate was in effect killed off yesterday.....
Northern Star executive chairman Bill Beament said both the program and a $50 million investment over the next decade to develop a centre of excellence in underground mining had been under review after the McGowan Government moved in the State Budget to increase the royalty rate from 2.5 to 3.75 per cent when the spot price of gold is above $1200/oz.
But both will be retained after the Liberal Party joined the Nationals and crossbenchers in opposing the “gold tax” yesterday.
Mr Beament said the $3 billion company, which produced about 515,000oz last year, including about 225,000oz at its Kanowna Belle and Kundana operations near Kalgoorlie, was looking to take on between 10 and 20 apprentices.
“We can reignite that now and we’re bloody excited about that because we want to keep kids in the Goldfields and Kalgoorlie and one way you can keep them is giving them an apprenticeship in the trade they want to pursue,” he said.
“We’re looking forward to enacting that very soon.
“We want to get that rolling by the end of the calendar year.”
Mr Beament said the Liberal Party’s decision to join the Nationals, One Nation and other crossbenchers to block the hike showed the industry’s message that it would hit jobs had got through.
The McGowan Government had criticised modelling by the Chamber of Minerals and Energy WA that showed as many as 3000 jobs could be lost and five mines put at risk of closure by the royalty hike.
CME chief executive Reg Howard-Smith also admitted yesterday the lobby group spent as much as $500,000 of its own funds fighting the change, in a campaign that echoed its longer pursuit of former Nationals leader Brendon Grylls ahead of March’s State Election over his plan to increase rental fees for Pilbara iron ore miners BHP and Rio Tinto.
Although the Liberals’ stand will leave the Government with a $400 million black hole in its Budget, Mr Howard-Smith said he believed miners were paying their fair share and had provided ample proof a rate rise would hit jobs.
“Our modelling clearly showed the direct and flow-on economic impacts of this proposal were too much to bear,” he said.
“The reality is there are gold mines which are too marginal to absorb the 50 per cent increase in costs and jobs would have been lost.
“I look forward to continuing to work with the WA Liberals, Nationals and other members of Parliament to assist them with whatever information they require to block this legislation.”
Mr Beament said the Liberals’ decision secured Northern Star’s $50 million investment on underground mining training in Kalgoorlie-Boulder and removed clouds over its marginal Paulsens gold mine in the Pilbara, where the miner employs about 220 of its 1600 staff and contractors.
“We’ve got 217 employees alone at Paulsens and we’re about to spend $10 million in exploration alone at Paulsens to extend the life so that’s been a massive win for those people and the company up there,” he said.