The head of soon-to-be-closed Illawarra Coke Company, Rex Wright, believes 28 staff set to lose their jobs have good prospects for employment in other industries.
The closure of the company’s sole remaining cokeworks at Corrimal was announced on Thursday.
It brings to an end more than 100 years of production in the Illawarra.
The decision followed the closure of the Coalcliff cokeworks in June this year.
Mr Wright said the skills possessed by ICC employees were ‘‘readily transferable’’.
He said apart from the tradesmen, the coke workers had licences to operate ‘‘front-end loaders, forklifts, bobcats etc’’.
‘‘All of our employees are very much aware of the need to work safely and have been trained in all aspects of safety management including carrying out safety inspections to conducting workplace risk assessments.’’
ICC will officially wind up business in late March or early April after customer orders are filled.
The only other Illawarra coke producer is BlueScope, which uses coke during steel making, while One Steel produces it in Whyalla, SA, and Xstrata produces it in Bowen, Queensland, for the Mount Isa lead smelter.
Mr Wright has blamed ‘‘extraordinary circumstances that have led to the collapse of the global coke market’’ for the closure of ICC.
Despite this, he said coke production would continue as long as the steel and lead industries remained viable.
‘‘As coke is essential for blast furnace operation, there will always be a need for it,’’ Mr Wright said.
He said that the carbon tax was not a ‘‘major reason’’ for the closure of the business and ICC had received substantial carbon credits to assist in offsetting the tax.