BHP-Mitsubishi mine closure threatens town’s future

Coal communities in central Queensland are reeling after the big job cuts announced by BHP Billiton and Mitsubishi yesterday.

It is the latest blow to the once booming industry and businesses throughout the region are facing an uncertain future.

At shift change on the coal fields some miners are wondering if it will be their last.

Many of these miners live in Moranbah, which is reeling in the wake of BMA’s (BHP Billiton-Mitsubishi Alliance) decision to cut 700 jobs.

At the workers’ club, the news is still sinking in for coal miner Brenton Fry and his wife, Anja Har.

“Obviously it’s bad news for the community, the whole Bowen Basin. It’ll strike a lot of people in the heart,” Mr Fry said.

The mining giant is blaming global cost pressures, but the decision will have a huge local effect and small businesses are bracing.

“We are going to lose a lot of people out of Moranbah, which is going to be quite sad,” said business owner Jo-Anne Foley.

This family-run business says the current downturn is the worst yet.

“It’s a bit like a cancer, I suppose, it’s just chopping you off at the legs slowly and we’ve just got to keep going. Suck it up,” added Shane Foley.

The widespread job cuts have also reignited the debate about fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) workforces. It has been a contentious issue during the boom times and now even more so during the downturn.

The Mayor of Isaac Regional Council Anne Baker says a sense of community will be lost if too many FIFOs stay on.

“There needs to be a review of this work practice. I’m very concerned about our education, our health, our small business,” she said.

Brenton Fry is hoping he can continue to call Moranbah home.

“This is probably the best job I’ve ever come across. So, I hope I get to keep it.”

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