At the heart of Glencore's decision to cease copper operations in Mount Isa lies the question: What makes a mine viable?
According to Traeger MP Robbie Katter, it means different things to different people - mine owners and politicians included.
On 18 October 2023, Glencore announced it will wind up its Mount Isa copper operations and the Lady Loretta Zinc Mine in 2025.
Glencore said it had conducted a range of studies and reviews seeking to further extend the life of the underground copper mines, "but unfortunately it has not been possible, and they have reached the end of mine life".
Glencore's Lady Loretta zinc mine, located 140 kilometres north-west of Mount Isa, which was a finite orebody with a seven-year mine life will also close in 2025.
Mr Katter slammed the suggestion the mine wasn't viable, and the State Government's response to news.
He challenged Glencore's claim the mine was no longer viable, and questioned why the Government was not looking more closely into the justification for the closure, saying it was complicit in signing a "death warrant" for the city.
Robbie Katter said Glencore's December 2022 Resources and Reserves report showed the mine still had more than 150 million tonnes of copper ore resource, making it viable. But he suggested it needed a new approach and a new owner.
"Glencore may not have an interest in pursuing this project, but many an alternative mining outfit will - perhaps even an Australian-owned one.
"The Queensland Government has the ability, and the finance, to work with the current owner to encourage they either progress the Mount Isa copper asset or hand it over to someone who will."
Robbie Katter cited the Ernest Henry mine at Cloncurry as an example of how new owners were able to turn a mining venture deemed "unviable" into a success. He hoped for a similar outcome for Mount Isa Mines.
Glencore, however, maintains it was not just about available resources.
"The studies revealed that the remaining mineral resources are not economically viable due to low ore grades and areas where, due to geological conditions, safe extraction can't be achieved using current technology, this all coupled with ageing infrastructure," the company said.
Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick visited Mount Isa on Wednesday to announce a $50 million support package for workers.
"The Palaszczuk Government has provided a series of assistance packages to Glencore to maintain operations at Mount Isa over the years, including for the 're-bricking' of the Mount Isa Smelter to ensure its continued operation," the Treasurer said.
"Now I'm calling on Glencore to play its part and make a financial contribution to the economic support package, over and above their obligations to these workers.
"Glencore made it very clear to us there was nothing that the Queensland government could say, or do, or pay, to continue those mines operating in that community."
But Robbie Katter said the government should do more to save those jobs.
"The $50 million on the table would be much better spent in finding an operator, and supporting their progression of the site, than rolling over and bidding the city farewell," he said.
"To allow Glencore to retain the asset with no intention of advancing it, triggering a mass exodus, business closures and essentially the death of Mount Isa, is not an option on my watch."
Robbie Katter said the closure announcement meant the State Government needed to revisit environmental licences that had been granted on the basis the mine would be operational.
With a population of 22,000, he said he "couldn't overstate the impact" the loss of 1200 jobs would have on the town.
His Federal counterpart, Kennedy MP Bob Katter said the mood in Mount Isa ranged from "terror to stoic acceptance".
While he said the issue was complicated, he was clear about one thing - he wanted "Glencore out".
"We want Glenore to go, to be replaced by an Australian group made up of serious Australian miners," Bob Katter said.
He said "discussions" to that end were being undertaken, but the State Government needed to show its support.
Bob Katter said Glencore should not be allowed to retain the smelter and walk away from mining operations, as it gave the company a monopoly over the entire copper resources in North West Queensland.
He said the announcement to close operations meant Glencore needed to start the remediation and rehabilitation process immediately.
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