Mining giant BHP Billiton will shed up to 200 jobs after announcing it will suspend mining at its Nickel West Leinster Perseverance Underground mine due to safety concerns.
“The decision to cease operations in the sub-level cave at Perseverance mine will lead to a reduction in the operational workforce at Leinster and impact valued stakeholders,” BHP said in a statement.
A spokeswoman said 200 positions associated with underground operations at the West Australian mine would be affected.
The company would try to redeploy employees before announcing a total number of redundancies, she said.
The company said Nickel West would continue to operate its processing facilities at Leinster, which has an overall workforce of 500, along with its other operations in Western Australia.
It will continue to maintain the underground infrastructure in Perseverance mine.
In October nine fitters had to go to a refuge chamber within the company’s Perseverance mine after a 3.7 magnitude earthquake struck the northern goldfields region.
The fitters were all brought to the surface safely and no one was injured during the seismic event.
BHP said since the miners were trapped in the earthquake, Nickel West technical and operational teams and independent experts had assessed the technical data and risks on the underground operations and all available options.
“Following this analysis BHP Billiton has decided it is unable to safely resume operations in the sub-level cave at Perseverance mine,” BHP said in a statement.
The company will resume mining at Rocky’s Reward open cut mine near Leinster to provide an alternative ore supply to its business.
Nickel West Asset President Paul Harvey was understood to be speaking with employees on Tuesday.
In a statement he said the company would work closely with affected employees and help find redeployment opportunities within Nickel West and the BHP Billiton Group where possible.
“The health, safety and wellbeing of our people is paramount,” he said.
“As this change is implemented, we will continue to treat our people and stakeholders with the utmost care and respect and maintain our strong focus on safety.”
BHP Billiton has begun work to understand the impact on production which will be reported in the company’s December 2013 quarter operational review.