Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ramu NiCo considers laying off workers

RAMU NiCo, the manager of Ramu nickel joint venture, will consider laying off workers at its nickel and cobalt operations in Madang following yesterday’s National Court refusal to lift the interim injunction preventing the construction of its offshore component of the deep sea tailings placement (DSTP) system, The National reports.

More than 3,000 people in the province depended on the US$1.4 billion project which is nearing the end of its construction phase.

They included about 1,200 Papua New Guinean workers at the Kurumbukari mine site in Usino-Bundi, the refinery site at Basamuk in the Rai Coast and the Madang head office.

They stand to lose their jobs.

And, in a further blow, the forced stopwork at the mine will slash economic growth forecast for this year.

Government officials said yesterday the GDP growth target of 8.5% this year would be downgraded to 7.1%, a massive drop which could have a negative effect on PNG as an investment destination.

The slow down in the PNG LNG project was also going to have some impact on economic growth forecasts, they said.

Ramu NiCo said their first option though would be to urgently appeal yesterday’s decision to the Supreme Court.

An “extremely disappointed” Ramu NiCo said in a statement it had already lost millions of kina since the injunction was granted in March.

In an earlier pre-trial hearing, Ramu NiCo had told the court that damages suffered since the injunction was granted included K2.05 milllion in direct expenses, K360,000 a day in interest to banks and K1.3 million a day in cost to DSTP contractors.

It said it had suffered financial losses for which it could not possibly be compensated.

Ramu NiCo had sought to lift the injunction by five Basamuk plaintiffs to allow it to finish construction before the advent of the rainy season and had undertaken not to dispose of tailings through the pipeline without the court’s approval. 

It said that up to June 30, it had spent US$1.2 billion out of the total development cost of US$1.4 billion for the project, which was scheduled to start trial operation by October.

Ramu NiCo said that given that it was unlikely that the DSTP would be completed before the rainy season, significant delays to the project construction and operational schedule was now unavoidable.

It said it had to fully assess the impact and amend the construction and operational timetable accordingly.

“As the construction is winding down and most of the equipment has been installed, one real option is to now place the project on a ‘care and maintenance’ basis, postpone the operational preparation works and adopt retrenchment measures, even though this would be devastating for our workers and their dependents and for the landowners, other community members and business partners.

“Given this, Ramu NiCo will do everything it reasonably can to minimise the losses.

“Ramu NiCo will also discuss the present situation with project stakeholders, including Highlands Pacific Limited, the government and landowners, before taking further actions,” it said. 


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