Robe senior engineers cut in restructure

A MOVE by mining giant North Limited to slash about $100 million from its balance sheets has resulted in redundancies and operational restructuring by Pilbara iron ore miner Robe River Iron Associates.

To improve capital efficiencies and reduce costs, Robe has laid off senior engineers and other staff, with some accepting sub-contract work at its Pilbara mining operations.

The restructure will impact mainly on the engineering department at Panna-wonica and the Perth office according to North manager media relations Stewart Murrihy.

The move is in line with an announcement last year by Melbourne-based North – which holds 65 per cent equity in Robe – to improvise, economise and improve production.

One source described the restructuring exercise as “big, very big”.

Earlier last year, North managing director Malcolm Broomhead identified $100 million of annual cost which could be slashed from the group’s balance sheet.

At the time he said planned cost and efficiency initiatives “across all activities” were aimed at improving volumes and boosting profits in the face of low commodity prices.

Robe spokesman Trevor Douglas told Business News between twelve and twenty people had been made redundant as part of its restructuring exercise.

He said the company also reviewed outsourcing some of its operations.

“Some restructuring is still going on, and the process will continue over the next couple of weeks,” he added.

In July, Robe executive director Bill Willis said the miner was reviewing its major departmental structures with a view to streamlining them.

“Significant improvements in the condition of plant and equipment, in operating efficiency and production capacity, in work place safety and culture and in sales and customer service have occurred within this period.

“We believe in and practice a policy of continuous improvement which, by its very nature, means change.”

Changes at Robe included Mr Willis retiring in December and being replaced by former general manager operations Bryan Oliver, who was recruited from the Iron Ore Company of Canada where he was vice president, operations.

Mr Oliver assumed duties on 18 December 1999. His knowledge of the iron ore business is described as exceptional.

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