Degree of optimism at Macraes

Calvin Fisher
Calvin Fisher
There appears to be a degree of optimism among 70 Oceana Gold employees, despite learning yesterday they are to lose their jobs at the Macraes gold mine.

Oceana Gold confirmed during an official announcement at a ''support gathering'' in Waikouaiti yesterday afternoon, that 70 people would be made redundant.

Macraes operations general manager Bernie O'Leary said the finalised number was lower than originally proposed because the company had managed to save 16 jobs by redeploying equipment operators to the underground operation at Macraes, to civil earthworks operations at Macraes by replacing contractor labour, and to the company's Reefton gold mine on the West Coast.

The redundancies are the result of the prolonged and sustained drop in gold prices, which has forced the company to reduce costs in order to sustain its operations.

The company released a new mine plan earlier this month, which signalled a reduction in material movement and gold production at the open pit, which meant ''lower equipment usage and a reduction in operating costs and support staff requirements over the next two years''.

A smaller cutback is planned at the Frasers 6 open pit, which will begin in the second half of this year.

More than 50 mine workers and their partners attended the support gathering organised by Oceana Gold in Waikouaiti yesterday, to learn their fate from management.

The company arranged for a number of support agencies such as recruitment consultants, government agencies and other businesses to attend, and provide advice, promote their services and discuss suitable job opportunities.

Mr O'Leary said the staff had been very understanding and had provided good feedback, and he thanked them for their contribution to Oceana Gold.

Amalgamated Workers Union New Zealand secretary Calvin Fisher said there was a degree of optimism among those affected, and believed it was largely due to the attendance of support agencies at the meeting.

''A number of people I spoke to said they had irons in the fire - they have a potential job lined up.

''I'm sure in the follow-up, there will be employment for those who have lost their jobs.''

However, he said the full extent of the redundancies was yet to be realised, because the number announced by Oceana Gold did not include people who were working on contracts at Macraes.

He believed up to 30 additional people could still lose their jobs with companies such as Gough Group and SGS New Zealand.

Neither Gough Group chief executive Karl Smith or SGS New Zealand business manager Hugh McMillan were able to be contacted yesterday.

Although Mr Fisher said he felt for those who had been made redundant, he told the ODT Oceana Gold should be congratulated for its overall handling of the situation.

He said management had done everything it could to keep the mine open for the remainder of its employees for at least another 18 months.

''There's still a lot of people working in the job. The company has managed to protect its sustainability.''

Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive John Christie said the number of Oceana Gold redundancies was not as bad as was initially speculated, but for those affected, it would still be unwelcome news.

He said Oceana Gold had been a big and important employer, and had provided spin-off business in the region for more than 20 years.

''It's disappointing for the community to see these job losses - especially the smaller communities like Palmerston and Macraes.''

However, he believed the announcement provided some certainty for those employees affected, allowing them to make more solid decisions about their future.

- john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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