Thursday 1 December 2011

Hansard to the Legislative Council


Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - I referred to the announcement of the closure of the Beaconsfield gold mine in my special interest speech earlier. The announcement was not a total shock. In fact, it was something of a surprise when the mine was reopened in 1996 after a long history of flooding. The mine originally started as long ago as 134 years. You could say that the Beaconsfield mine was running on borrowed time, but helped recently by a near-record gold price. After the fatal rock fall in May 2006, mining became more expensive with the use of robots. It is a very deep mine, mining is now down to 1 210 metres below the surface and the gold at that level is running out. Going deeper would be unprofitable, even at the present gold price, so unless there is another steep rise in the price the mine will close at the end of June next year.

The CEO of BCD Resources NL, Peter Thompson, has promised that all employees will receive their entitlements. There are 103 full-time workers, 16 casuals and 32 contractors. Unlike many Australian mines these days, Beaconsfield is a community mine. Most of its workers live in Launceston or the Tamar Valley instead of them flying in and out. The Beaconsfield mine has been closed before for an extensive period so it can still be reactivated in the future, especially if more deposits are discovered nearby. The processing plant, which is valued at $60 million, is likely to be sold on the mainland.

There is understandable concern in the Beaconsfield community but it is not all doom and gloom. It is a very resilient community in a region with many opportunities. The West Tamar mayor, Barry Easther, is upbeat but Brant Webb, who was trapped underground with his fellow worker, Todd Russell, in May 2006, says there will be a big impact on the community. He says it will have an impact on every aspect of the town. Brant Webb was quoted in this morning's Mercury newspaper saying that skilled workers would be forced to go to Western Australia for work. To quote him:

'These blokes who are working there are going to be uprooting and leaving. We are going to have a lot of empty houses.'

That is what Brant Webb was reported as saying. However, a local butcher, Tony Anderson, was quoted in the same article saying that Beaconsfield survived before the mine was reopened in 1996 and it could also survive afterwards. He said many of the mine employees lived in Launceston or in the wider area beyond Beaconsfield so the impact on the town would be lessened.

Economic shocks such as mine and other industry closures are a fact of life. The solution for Tasmania, as elsewhere, is diversification and fortunately there is a lot of that in my electorate. The wine industry is thriving and innovating. There are many viable small businesses and even some manufacturing. The tourism industry on the West Tamar can only grow, particularly with the solid push at the moment by the West Tamar Chamber of Commerce. The West Tamar's biggest asset is its people - well-educated, hardworking and with a deeply-imbedded community spirit. They will cope with the closure of the Beaconsfield mine.

The Council adjourned at 7 p.m.