Mine owners, Copper Mines of Tasmania (CMT), gave workers the grim news yesterday afternoon saying the mine would now be put into care and maintenance mode.
Speaking to The Mercury newspaper, CMT’s general manager Scot Clyde said the decision had not been made lightly and came as the last resort.
“The discovery of a rock fall in the mine’s ventilation drive on Friday 27 June was a bitter blow as we were preparing for a staged restart of operations following the long shut down,” he said.
“This has been a very difficult decision for CMT and for our parent company Vedanta, especially after the large financial commitment to support our workforce on standby pay since the suspension of mining operations in January 2014.
“Clearing the rock fall and restoring ventilation would have required a further shut down of some three months with a further substantial financial cost to support our workforce on standby pay for that period.
“CMT will still need to clear the rock fall and restore ventilation to keep the mine ready to open if and when an opportunity to do so arises in the future.
“I want to reassure everyone that we have done everything possible to keep the mine running as we understand just how important it is to our own workforce and for the West Coast community”.
The mine had been scheduled to re-start production early this month after being closed for 6 months in the aftermath of three tragic deaths at the site.
On 9 December last year, two members of a maintenance crew were killed at the mine after falling to their deaths down a mine shaft. Then on 17 January this year, just 6 weeks later, a loader operator was killed after becoming engulfed in a mud slide.
About 200 workers have been stood down on half pay since the start of the year after CMT decided to close the mine temporarily in the wake of the deaths.
The company said there would now be ongoing drilling and exploration for new ore bodies on the Mt Lyell lease, with the aim of re-opening the mine further down the track.
“It would be at least 18 months before any reopening of the mine could be possible if it is found to be technically and economically feasible to do so,” Mr Clyde said.
Mr Clyde also said about 15 employees would be kept on at Mt Lyell for care and maintenance coverage.
The devastating announcement comes just two days after Unity Mining revealed that its gold mine, about 20km away from Mt Lyell, would go into care and maintenance at the end of next year if more resources were not found.