Rio Tinto has announced a review of its troubled Gove Pacific Aluminium refinery and bauxite mine at Nhulunbuy, 600 km east of Darwin.
The loss-making operation is the largest employer, with 1400 workers, for the town of 3,800 people. Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills has said that the plant’s closure was “inconceivable” in terms of its impact on the community.
“We need the mine and refinery to be here for the town to be here,” a resident told The Australian.
The review process will conclude in January, and options being considered include shutting the plant until economic conditions improve and converting the diesel-run operation to gas.
"One of the options is that we could consider the potential curtailment of Gove (operations) until economic conditions improve," CEO Sandeep Biswas told the ABC.
The Australian Workers Union used the news to highlight the need for access to natural gas for the country’s manufacturers.
“It’s important that Rio works closely with the Territory and Federal governments, and with unions, to use this review process to secure the long-term viability of the operation,” said Paul Howes from the AWU.
“This should include the conversion of the refinery from diesel to gas power, and measures to ensure that domestic manufacturers can have access to competitively prices natural gas.”