The Southern Highlands Coal Action Group has rejected claims it was a major factor in Boral’s decision to mothball its Berrima (Medway) coalmine earlier this week.
On Wednesday, Boral released a statement blaming unsustainable conditions in the current coal market and an appeal lodged against the expansion of the project by Southern Highlands Coal Action Group (SHCAG) for its decision to place the mine in ‘‘care and maintenance’’.
But SHCAG co-ordinator Tim Frost said Boral had not waited until the Land and Environment Court had handed down its decision on a counter appeal lodged by the company before deciding to mothball the mine.
‘‘In the meantime, the new Boral CEO has been cutting costs within the company and has laid off more than 1000 staff,’’ he said.
Boral first announced the job cuts in January this year.
‘‘With falling coal prices and a dour outlook for the cement industry, Boral management has taken the obvious decision and closed down one very inefficient coalmine,’’ he said.
He said the group now held grave fears over how the mine site would be rehabilitated, and the company needed to establish a clear path towards its total closure.
The small-scale colliery, which has been in operation since the 1920s, is managed by Delta Mining on Boral’s behalf.
It has been providing about 220,000 tonnes of coal a year to Boral’s nearby Berrima Cement Works.
More than 30 staff will lose their jobs as a result of the decision.
The operations manager for both Berrima sites, Stuart Hutchings, said the care-and-maintenance decision had been difficult.
“Boral remains committed to its cement operations at Berrima, which employ some 130 staff and continue to make a major social and economic contribution to the Southern Highlands,” Mr Hutchings said.
Instead of using coal from the colliery for cement manufacturing, Boral would start buying coal from third parties.
“Our decision to enter care and maintenance at the colliery follows a review which confirmed that continuing mining at Medway was unsustainable in the current market,’’ Mr Hutchings said.
‘‘This is due to increased costs, in turn making it difficult for Boral to compete with imported cement material, and the flat outlook for cement sales generally.”
Mr Hutchings said the Land and Environment Court’s ruling had placed ‘‘additional pressures’’ on the mine.
“We remain disappointed that, despite a lengthy and rigorous assessment process over more than two years to secure the project approval as granted by the government’s expert panel in 2012, this approval was overturned by the Land and Environment Court at SHCAG’s instigation,” he said.
He said Boral would work with Delta Mining to support those individuals affected by the decision.
A CFMEU spokesman said the normal amount of help would be extended to members affected by Boral’s decision.