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TWP sheds staff as miners take stock

SOUTH African-owned engineering consultancy TWP Australia is the latest company to lay off Perth staff, admitting to shedding workers due to decisions by clients in an environment where some project work is stalling.

TWP managing director Bryan Baillie would not comment on which projects had prompted the redundancies, claiming he was bound by confidentiality and that his clients had yet to make announcements of what work was being delayed or axed.

The firm's entry into Western Australia started last year when it won a tender to undertake the feasibility study for BHP Billiton Ltd's $770 million expansion of Perseverance Deeps, part of its Nickel West operations near Leinster in the northern Goldfields.

The first phase involved a definitive feasibility study to extend the underground mine from the existing 1,100-metre depth to 1,400 metres, using TWP's expertise in deep mining.

Last year, WA Business News was told that if everything went to plan, TWP would continue working on the project during its four-year construction phase, leading up to initial production in 2013.

This was part of an ambition to grow its staff five-fold to 150 by the end of this year, and even the possibility of a stock market float.

But the global financial crisis may be curbing that optimism, with some redundancies at TWP understood to involve staff on the Perseverance Deeps project.

BHP issued this surprisingly brief statement last week when asked about the current status and future prospects for the Perseverance Deeps project.

"Perseverance Deeps is in feasibility phase and we will provide further information if the project moves towards execution," it said in an emailed one-line statement that reveals some of the uncertainty over the project's future.

Mr Baille said the firm faced a great deal of uncertainty regarding work from a number of clients and was awaiting decisions around its portfolio of projects.

"I am at the mercy of many of our clients," he said.

In WA, TWP Australia said it had also been awarded the engineering and design element of Gold Fields Australia Pty Ltd's Agnew Mines village extension project at Leinster, and was selected to work on Kimberley Diamond Company's Ellendale Mine Production project in the Kimberley.

TWP said KDC's primary focus was the reconfiguration and optimisation of the processing facilities to meet higher processing demands.

TWP is not the first to lay off staff in WA, with WorleyParsons Ltd revealing two weeks ago that it had to redeploy around 180 staff and make about 70 redundant as a result of anticipated work for Fortescue Metals Group Ltd and Moly Mines Ltd being shelved.

Among mining companies to lay off staff are Mount Gibson Iron Ltd, Consolidated Minerals Ltd, Newcrest Mining Ltd and Norilsk Nickel

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