Courier Mail, The (Brisbane), 17/05/2007, pg. 5

KINGAROY and Nanango are braced for tough economic times with the sacking of 160 miners from Tarong coal mine as drought slows power generation in the district to a crawl.

The mine produces seven million tonnes of coal a year to supply the state’s largest electricity generator, Tarong Power Station, which generates 30 per cent of the state’s electricity.

The sackings will take up to $7 million a year in wages out of the two towns but the biggest blow will be felt in smaller rural communities already struggling with years of drought.

In Maidenwell, many local farmers took jobs at the mine to replace dwindling farm income.

Kings Hotel publican Gordon Pye said the extra wages coming into town helped the town survive but they would now be gone.

“With the drought there is no money to go around. If people go and work away from town we won’t see them for a few weeks at a time,” he said.

Mr Pye said mine workers were happy with the redundancy packages being offered but he expected the job losses would cost him about 10 per cent of his turnover.

A spokesperson for Rio Tinto Coal said the job losses were very sad and unavoidable but the company had tried to lessen the impact by laying off contractors, helping employees find work at other company mines, offering voluntary redundancies and offering extended leave to workers in the hope good rains would allow the power station to soon return to full production.

But Kingaroy and Nanango Shire residents are already bracing for more bad news next month when Tarong Energy announces where it will source coal after the current supply contract expires in 2010.

Tarong Energy will decide whether to source coal from Kinoon mine, 15km from the existing mine or from Acland, 65km away.

“If they choose New Acland coal, this district will lose another 250 coal mine jobs,” Nanango Shire mayor Reg McCallum said yesterday.

“Everyone is hanging on and waiting for the announcement.”

Kingaroy Chamber of Commerce president Rob Patch blamed the power station slow-down on the delay in piping in recycled water.

Premier Peter Beattie yesterday denied his Government shared any of the blame for the job cuts saying it was an unfortunate consequence of the drought.

But Opposition Leader Jeff Seeney said the job losses were a direct result of the Government’s failure to invest in water infrastructure which had forced it to scale back generation at Tarong to save valuable drinking water.

Copyright 2007 / Courier Mail