The union representing hundreds of struggling miners at Gujarat NRE Coking Coal met with the company’s potential new owners – Jindal Steel and Power – yesterday, but is none the wiser about the steel giant’s intentions for the Illawarra company.
The future of Gujarat’s two Illawarra mines hinges on a deal to make Jindal the majority shareholder following a meeting being held in Towradgi next week, however doubts have been raised over whether the takeover will go ahead.
CFMEU south-western district vice-president Bob Timbs met representatives of Jindal Steel at Gujarat NRE’s Russell Vale mine yesterday.
Mr Timbs said he was heartened the company met with the union, but said he was unable to divulge any details of what was said due to ‘‘commercial sensitivities with Jindal Steel’’.
However he said the meeting was a step forward, because Jindal had ‘‘committed to start a dialogue with the union if or when they take over’’.
Jindal’s operations in Australia are limited, however it has an office in Brisbane, and has had several company representatives in the Illawarra in recent days who remain elusive to the media.
The Mercury yesterday sent questions to a woman who answered the phone at the Brisbane office, asking about the company’s intentions to go ahead with the takeover deal on October 16 and whether they would pay workers following that date.
The paper received no response by last night’s deadline, but was told by the women over the phone that the director was unlikely to make a comment.
Meantime, amid the financial turmoil facing Gujarat NRE, the company has finally submitted its renewed expansion plans for its Russell Vale mine for consideration by the NSW government.
Plans to expand the No1 Colliery have been in the works since 2009, and state government approval is vital for the mine to continue operating in the future.
Despite the timing of its submission of a new ‘‘Preferred Project Report’’, which was published on NSW Planning’s website this week, Gujarat’s head of corporate relations Dr Chris Harvey said this did not represent a last-ditch attempt to save the mine.
‘‘[The documents are] part of the approval process as administered by the Department of Planning and Infrastructure,’’ he said.
‘‘They are the next logical step in the planning and approval process and do not represent a last attempt to save the mines.
‘‘However, it must be clearly identified that ongoing approval for the longwall panels is essential for the mine to continue to operate.’’
The preferred project report confirms a downsized expansion proposal which was leaked to the Mercury in July.
While Gujarat originally sought to extend the life of the mine expansion for 18 years, it has now submitted a plan to expand it for five years.
This means the capital value has also been dramatically scaled back, from $250 million to $85 million.
Plans for seven longwalls at the firm’s Wonga West mine have also been cut and the proposal to expand its mine under the Cataract Reservoir were also removed.
Additionally, rather than mining nine longwalls to produce 6.5 million tonnes of coal at its Wonga East site, Gujarat plans to establish eight shortened or realigned longwalls to mine 4.7 million tonnes of coal.
It still aims to triple coal production to three million tonnes a year over the five-year period, according to the proposal.