SYDNEY, March 13 Australian mining magnate Clive
Palmer said on Sunday his nickel refinery in Queensland will be
idle for at least eight weeks, due to a lack of ore and because
government authorities have not yet fully approved its
Speaking on Australian Broadcasting Corporation television,
Palmer said the refinery is offline because there is "no ore"
for it to process.
"It will take at least eight weeks to get ore on the ground
so the refinery could operate," Palmer said. He described the
plant's situation as a "great tragedy" for its 550 workers,
whose future employment is uncertain.
The plant, at Townsville in Australia's northeast, went into
voluntary administration in January as a collapse in nickel
prices to 12-year lows pushed it into financial
Palmer, however, wrested back management control of the
plant last week as the head of a new joint-venture, Queensland
Nickel Sales Pty Ltd and announced his intention to keep the
On Friday the Queensland state government gave environmental
approval for the refinery to operate under its new management.
But Palmer told the ABC the approval process was incomplete
and he later said on Twitter there were 18 approvals outstanding
"making further activity at the refinery impossible or illegal".
Queensland's premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, told reporters
the government had not received any requests for further
approvals, despite bureaucrats being in "constant contact" with
"I think Mr Palmer is taking some poor shots without having
the full information that's needed," Palaszczuk said.
"My government is prepared to work with his new company to
look at the approvals that are necessary for the continuing
trade of that company, but we need a bit of honesty from Mr
Palmer about what approvals he needs, he actually needs to lodge
the approvals for the government to consider the approvals."
A spokesman for Queensland's environment minister told
Reuters that Palmer required no further environmental clearances
to run the plant.
Before Palmer reassumed control of the refinery,
administrators had been strongly considering placing it on care
and maintenance due to ongoing trading losses and their concerns
over plant maintenance, safety and environmental issues.
Two weeks ago the plant shut down for 11 days due to low ore
On Friday, Nickel ore shipments ordered by the
administrator, FTI Consulting, were diverted away from the
refinery because Palmer's new entity declined an offer to
purchase the ore, a spokesman for FTI told Reuters.
(Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Editing by Robert Birsel)