Mount Isa: ‘Devestated and angry’: City hit by crushing act

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The community at Mount Isa are furious and devastated after Glencore announced its decision to close the town’s mines in 2025, leaving more than 1200 jobs up in the air.

The century-old town has been one of Queensland’s longest-running mining areas, with the first lead ore discovered in 1923 by John Campbell Miles.

Two years later, around 200 miners had arrived – forming the Mount Isa Mines. This number later doubled by 1926, with accommodation for workers and their families being set up.

Mount Isa soon transitioned from a camp ground full of shanties and tin-sheet hovels and blossomed into better houses with a strong, hardworking community.

The mines were the beginning and the lifeblood of Mt Isa, so when Glencore announced that they were closing the mine, the community were responded with outcry.

“To be blunt, the community is devastated and angry,” MP for Traeger, Robbie Katter told news.com.au.

“On behalf of the community of Mount Isa, and the 1,200 jobs that hang in the balance, this needs to be called out. We cannot control the business decisions of a global commodity trader.

“However we can dictate the terms with which they access, and profit from, our globally-sought resources and what we demand as a community and state in return.”

Glencore, a Swiss multinational, produces and exports essential commodities used in products across the globe.

It has 23 active mining operations in Australia, located in NSW, Queensland, WA and the NT.

In an announcement earlier this week, Glencore has stated that the mines will be closing in 2025. They’re also intending to close the seven-year-old Lady Loretta zinc mine which is 140km northwest of Mt Isa.

The company points to studies that have revealed that the “remaining mineral resources are not economically viable” because of low ore grades, ageing infrastructure and safe extraction can no longer be achieved using current technology.

Chief Operating Officer of the company’s Zinc Assets in the country, Sam Strohmayr acknowledges that the decision is one of disappointment for the community.

“We know this decision will be disappointing for our people, our suppliers, and the Mount Isa community,” he said.

“The reality of mining is that mines have a beginning, a middle and [an] end. And unfortunately, after 60 years of operation, Mount Isa’s underground copper operations have now reached that end.

“We want to give our people as much time as possible to consider the best options for them and their families, which is why we are notifying our workers and the community almost two years before these mines close.”

The Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick announced a $50 million support package in response to Glencore’s announcement.

This package is to support those losing their jobs and the regional city itself, with $30 million set aside to accelerate development of resource projects within the northwest in the next five years.

A further $20 million will be allocated towards an “economic structural adjustment package” and will be matched dollar-for-dollar by Glencore, the Townsville Bulletin reports.

For Mr Katter, this isn’t enough.

“This has been blindly accepted and somewhat applauded by some sections of the media and community; however not by me, and not by Mount Isans who believe in the future of their community,” he said.

Mick Bakhash, a 75-year-old retired miner, has said that despite Mt Isa enduring strikes and low commodity prices, the community has “always come out of it”.

“But this one here is going to hurt real bad,” he told the Townsville Bulletin.

“We’ve had some bad ones but this one is most probably the worst we’ve ever had. Mount Isa is never out, it’s always had the ability to come back.

“I think the problem is no one trusts Glencore.”

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