by Kevin Hague
Solid Energy’s announcement last week of the suspension of work at the Spring Creek mine is a devastating blow to the West Coast economy and our local community.
Up to 230 jobs could go (plus others in contractors and related industries), which is very bad news for the workers and their families who are dependent on work at the mine. It will also deliver a real shock to the local economy.
I really feel for those families who have been finding it tough in recent times, even with a pay cheque coming in. These job losses will see many families facing real and significant hardship.
It doesn’t have to be this way. I place the blame for the mine closure squarely on the Government and their unpopular asset sales programme. It is clear that Solid Energy and the other power companies are under instructions to cut costs and maximise their share price in preparation for sale. Evan when that means devastating job losses.
A letter from the Solid Energy board to State Owned Enterprises Minister Tony Ryall earlier this year reveals the pressure on the company to maximise the cash that is available from existing operations. Cutting costs, getting rid of lower performing aspects of a business and sacking workers is typical behaviour of companies that are getting ready to be sold.
So if the Government wasn’t so worried about getting the best sales price from (ultimately overseas) buyers for Solid Energy then the pressure to close the mine would be less. Yes, there are issues to do with the declining price of coal, but managing price fluctuations is core business for primary producers, and a state owned power company would have more room to manage that situation than a private company that is just out to maximise profits for shareholders.
Keeping our assets in public ownership so we can sensibly manage the overall energy sector and take into consideration the impact of changes on jobs, communities, consumers and the environment is one of the key reasons the Green Party is actively opposed to the asset sales programme.
While the Green Party is opposed to the development of new coal mines, because of their impact on the environment and climate change, our policy is not to close existing mines. We are okay with existing mines continuing to allow time for the careful planning and transitioning to new jobs and new technologies. Solid Energy’s sudden decision to close the mine is the opposite of what we need to be doing to ensure a viable economic future for the coast.
Big companies like Solid Energy, the local council and local business need to be actively planning now for what we do when the coal runs out. Just shutting the mine with no consideration for the impact on workers, their families and our local economy is poor planning and poor economic management.
That is why it is critical we stop the sale of Solid Energy. If we can stop the sale then there will be less pressure to close the mine. Please go to our website to download the petition to hold a referendum on the asset sales and get involved in our campaign to Keep Our Assets. It may also be the best way to keep our jobs.