Central Queensland MP George Christensen.
Central Queensland MP George Christensen. Tony Martin

Taxes to blame for mining's demise

CENTRAL Queensland MP George Christensen says the carbon and mining taxes are to blame for the high number of Queensland mining projects, worth billions of dollars, being either axed or delayed.

Mr Christensen was reacting to news on Thursday that BHP had shelved plans to build mines Red Hill, near Moranbah, and Saraji East, near Dysart.

The projects would have created 4500 jobs during construction and 2900 ongoing positions.

Mr Christensen listed seven Queensland mining projects, and almost 9000 jobs, that had been affected since both taxes came into effect on July 1.

Included in his count was Xstrata's decision to shed 600 jobs in its coal operations.

While the company would axe 600 jobs, those losses would be spread across Queensland and New South Wales, an Xstrata spokesman confirmed.

In Queensland, the company will close its Mackay office and one of its Brisbane locations, with an unspecified number of jobs to do. The spokesman said staff consultations already had begun.

Xstrata cited "industry-wide pressures including low coal prices, high input costs and a strong Australian dollar against the US dollar" for its decision.

A number of mining company bosses also have been highly critical of the $1.6 billion mining royalties increase contained in the Queensland Budget.

In the wake of the September 11 budget, BHP Billiton chairman Jac Nasser described the royalties hike as "disappointing" and said it would add to "uncertainty for long-term investments".

But Mr Christensen had no doubt the carbon and mining taxes were to blame for the mining slow down in Queensland.

"Economic opportunities are being squandered because incentives are being taken away from industry and companies are being penalised for operating in Australia or daring to make a profit," he said. "Our competitor countries around the world do not face the same obstacles that the Gillard government is harnessing companies with here, especially the mining tax and the carbon tax.

"These taxes have been choking our golden goose for 81 days and we will be paying the price in years to come when those industries are just not there."

Mr Christensen would prefer to see the federal mining tax scrapped and state royalties increased - a point he made in a speech to the Parliament in May last year.

But Climate Change Minister Greg Combet accused Mr Christensen of being "deceitful" and "playing politics with people's jobs".

"Everyone knows Tony Abbott went over the top with his carbon price scare campaign yet now Mr Christensen is following his leader," Mr Combet said.

"He is ignoring the fact that world coal prices are down significantly and that the Boyne smelter has been under pressure from low aluminium prices. "The average impact of the carbon price on emissions from open cut coal mines in Queensland is just 39 cents per tonne of coal mined.

"By contrast, world coking coal prices have fallen from over US$200 a tonne in June to around US$175 a tonne now."

Resources Minister Martin Ferguson was overseas and unavailable for comment.

Queensland mining projects shelved or axed since July 1:

  • BHP to close Gregory mine, near Emerald - 297 jobs.
  • Peabody Energy Codrilla Mine expansion (on hold).
  • Xstrata coal to consolidate office-based operations in Queensland, closing Mackay office and one in Brisbane. 600 jobs to go across Queensland and NSW, although unspecified number of jobs affected in Queensland.
  • Rio Tinto to close Blair Athol mine, near Clermont - 170 jobs.
  • Rio Tinto to shed jobs at Boyne aluminium smelter - 90 jobs.
  • Peabody Energy shelves plans at Codrilla, near Nebo - jobs foregone.
  • BHP shelves Peak Downs expansion plans, near Moranbah - 350 jobs.
  • BHP to shelve Red Hill mine, near Moranbah - 2000 construction jobs, 1500 permanent jobs.
  • BHP shelves Saraji East mine plans, near Dysart - 2500 construction jobs, 1400 permanent jobs