Oct 20, 2023

The Palaszczuk Labor Government, and in particular Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick, have in recent days been complicit with Glencore in the signing of an entirely unnecessary “death warrant” for the city of Mount Isa.

On behalf of the community of Mount Isa, and the 1,200 jobs that hang in the balance, this needs to be called out.

We cannot control the business decisions of a global commodity trader however we can dictate the terms with which they access, and profit from, our globally-sought resources and what we demand as a community and state in return.

On Wednesday, it was formally announced by Glencore that it would close the Mount Isa Copper Operation in 2025. Lady Loretta Zinc Mine will also close.

In response to Glencore’s news, the Queensland Treasurer visited Mount Isa, provided me and others a briefing and announced a $50 million support package in return for the loss of these jobs – the same jobs he should be fighting to keep.

This has been blindly accepted and somewhat applauded by some sections of the media and community; however not by me, and not by Mount Isans who believe in the future of their community, who know that there are decades more life in the Mount Isa Copper Operation and who are infuriated by the Treasurer’s double standards.

In 2020 when Virgin Airlines was considering moving its headquarters from Bowen Hills in Brisbane to New South Wales as a cost-saving exercise, the Treasurer entered into a bidding war.

“There’s nothing more dangerous than Queenslanders with their backs to the wall … we will stop at nothing to ensure the headquarters of Virgin remains in Queensland,” Minister Dick said at the time[1].

Through the Queensland Investment Corporation, he then offered the company $200 million to stay in Brisbane, which the foreign-owned airline operator accepted.

It moved its headquarters all the way from Bowen Hills to Southbank – 1,200 Brisbane-based jobs were saved, and the Treasurer celebrated[2].

Compare this to the “roll-over-type” reaction we have witnessed this week from that same Treasurer in relation to North Queensland where the same number of jobs hang in the balance.

Only this time, the jobs are a long, long way from Brisbane.

“(There is) nothing the Queensland Government (can) say or do or pay to continue those mines operating in that community,” the Treasurer said this week[3].

I can advise the Treasurer that as per Glencore’s December 2022 Resources and Reserves report, there is still many years of life left in the MICO.

A total of 157 million tonnes of copper ore resource, at a grade of 1.7 per cent, remains at the site.

Glencore may not have an interest in pursuing this project, but many an alternative mining outfit will – perhaps event 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.

It won’t be the first time the Treasurer has told a big miner to “use it, or lose it” in recent months[4].

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.

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.