PERTH, July 24 More than 300 workers at Glencore
Xstrata's Collinsville coal mine in Australia were laid
off by operator Thiess on Wednesday, as the commodities group
moves to take over operations in a bid to restore the mine to
Glencore said it was unclear how many of the laid off
employees it might hire back as it overhauls operations to
improve equipment and labour productivity.
The moves come as plummeting coal prices have forced
companies in Australia to steadily cut jobs over the last six
months to a year.
Thiess, a unit of Leighton Holdings, said it gave
pink slips to 321 workers at the mine on Wednesday. The mine
currently has a workforce of about 420, of which 400 are Thiess
employees, according to Glencore.
Key in determining whether or not workers will be re-hired
is whether or not they agree to new terms of employment under
"Under the current workplace agreement, it is going to be
very difficult for the mine to be viable in the future,"
Glencore spokesman Francis Derosa said.
The mine, in operation for around 100 years, has been losing
"substantial" amounts of money for the last 18 months, Derosa
said, adding that until there is an agreement with the
employees' union Glencore will not be able to give specific
numbers on how many people it will employ going forward.
Stephen Smythe, a spokesman for the union, said the move may
be aimed at closing the mine altogether.
"We're fairly optimistic that the mine can have a viable
long-term future, but only if the measures that we've identified
come to fruition," Derosa said.
Glencore, then Xstrata, announced in February that it would
take over the mine's operations from Thiess in August. Glencore
acquired miner Xstrata in May.
Earlier this week, Peabody Energy Group the world's
largest private-sector coal miner, said it will cut 170 jobs
across Australia as it looks to reduce costs amid a global glut
in coal supply.
Prices for thermal coal, used for power generation, have
fallen over 30 percent in the last two years to under $80 per
tonne, while prices for coking coal, used for steelmaking, have
shed about 40 percent in the last year to around $130 per tonne.
Glencore's Collinsville mine produced 4 million tonnes of
thermal coal and coking coal last year.