Rio Tinto share price: Company struggles to keep Australian coal mine open

on Dec 16, 2013
Updated: Oct 21, 2019
Listen, Monday, December 16: Rio Tinto (LON:RIO) has denied claims it is abusing the planning process to speed up approval of a planned modification at its Mount Thorley Warkworth coal mine in the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW).

Rio Tinto’s share price was up 0.61 percent to 3,199p as of 10:17 UTC today.
Rio Tinto has said the modification will allow the mine to operate almost at existing production levels for another two years and secure more than 1,300 jobs. The modification is much smaller than the extension which was knocked back by the NSW Land and Environment Court earlier this year and that is still awaiting judgement after an appeal by the British-Australian mining giant in the Supreme Court.

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Last week, Australia’s Newcastle Herald reported that employees of the Rio Tinto-managed Coal & Allied Warkworth mine in the Hunter Valley in New South Wales had been “effectively forced” to lodge submissions with the state government supporting Rio’s application for the modification. The firm had also withheld thousands of dollars in end-of-year bonus payments to union members but paid it to non-union employees, the newspaper wrote.

Of the 1,300 received submissions to the Planning Assessment Commission 900 were in favour of the mine extension. Rio Tinto which has been fighting to expand the Warkworth coal mine since April this year, denied coercing workers to fill out submissions but defended not paying a Christmas bonus because the unionised workforce had rejected a new enterprise agreement.

Community groups in the area have written to the NSW Planning Minister, urging him to suspend the assessment process for the proposed expansion of the mine, saying the Planning Department recommended approval of the project 21 days after the application was lodged, while residential development applications for home renovations in NSW take an average of 68 days to be approved.

The Department of Planning and Infrastructure has categorically rejected any suggestion of collusion in assessing Rio Tinto’s application to modify its Warkworth mining operation.
A Rio Tinto spokesman said that after four years of consultation around the mine, it was “disingenuous” to claim the current application needed to be further delayed.
Rio Tinto has obtained the NSW state government approval for a $546 million development of the Warkworth mine from 2020 until 2033. The open-pit operation is part of a larger mining complex producing about 12 million metric tons a year of thermal and coking coal for the local market and customers in Asia.
**As of 10:04 UTC buy Rio Tinto shares at 3,174p**
**As of 10:04 UTC sell Rio Tinto shares at 3,173p**
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