SW benefits in the balance

BHP Billiton has given the strongest indication yet that plans for a 300-strong residential workforce model to service a $1.86 billion nickel mining operation at Ravensthorpe will be dropped unless the Federal Government commits to funding local infrastructure.

A spokesman for BHP Billiton said a decision was imminent on whether a fly-in/fly-out or residential work-force model would be established, and that the company was still hopeful of Federal Government support. However, he conceded it was doubtful a residential model would be approved without that support.

“It would be too much of a burden to establish a residential workforce that requires such capital investment,” the spokesman said.

The project is forecast to net huge rewards and flow-on benefits for Ravensthorpe and the region by creating 1,000 new jobs during construction and 300 permanent jobs once the mine is operational.

The spokesman reiterated that the funding was not for the project but for upgrades to local infrastructure such as roads and the port, which would require a long lead-time. 

A spokesperson for Federal Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane has previously ruled out Federal support under the strategic investment process – the same project that assisted Rio Tinto’s $400 million HIsmelt Process Plant at Kwinana.

Senator Macfarlane met with local authorities in Esperance earlier this week to discuss alternative methods of Federal funding, which could still facilitate a residential workforce.

Premier Geoff Gallop recently said the State Government had committed $18.4 million towards the project, which would generate revenue to the Commonwealth seven times the revenue that would be generated for Western Australia.

“That is a Commonwealth that is out of touch with the development needs of our nation,” Dr Gallop said.



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