Swiss commodity trader Glencore has plans to close its underground copper mines in Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia, in 2025, after 60 years of mining operations.
The decision to close the underground copper operations belonging to operator Mount Isa Mines (MIM) is expected to affect about 1,000 jobs.
Affected operations include Enterprise, X41 and Black Rock, in addition to the nearby Lady Loretta Zinc mine.
However, the company plans to continue to operate Mount Isa Mines’ other metals assets, including the copper smelter, the George Fisher Mine, the zinc-lead concentrator and lead smelter in Mount Isa, as well as the copper refinery in Townsville.
The closure decision follows a range of studies and reviews, which focused on further extending the underground copper mines’ operational life.
The reason for its shuttering, according to Glencore, is low ore grades.
“Glencore has conducted a range of studies and reviews seeking to further extend the life of the underground copper mines, but unfortunately it has not been possible, and they have reached the end of mine life,” Glencore said in a statement.
“The studies revealed that the remaining mineral resources are not economically viable due to low ore grades and areas where, due to geological conditions, safe extraction can’t be achieved using current technology, this all coupled with ageing infrastructure.”
Mount Isa currently employs over 1200 people, and the Queensland Government has thrown employees a lifeline in the wake of the announcement.
“Our government will work together with Glencore to develop an economic support package to help workers and the community transition as these mines close in 2025,” Queensland Deputy Premier Steven Miles said.
Part of this package includes up to $30 million to accelerate the development of more resource projects in the area and up to $20 million, matched by Glencore, for an economic structural adjustment package.
“I understand many workers and their families will find Glencore’s decision a difficult one to accept,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said.
“But we will always do what we can to support workers and their families to find new good, secure jobs. North West Queensland is central to the delivery of critical minerals needed for global decarbonisation and skilled workers like those at Glencore are vital for this new industry that is set to generate thousands of jobs.”