Wave of sackings at nickel mine swamps Forrest’s Poseidon adventure – by Andrew Burrell (The Australian – July 11, 2013)


POSEIDON Nickel chairman Andrew Forrest’s bid to revive the historic Windarra project in the face of worsening nickel prices appears to have suffered a blow after more than 40 contractors were sacked amid speculation the company is attempting to preserve cash.

The suspension of drilling at the Windarra nickel site this week comes after Mr Forrest, the 32 per cent owner of Poseidon, and chief executive David Singleton returned empty-handed from New York last month following a bid to secure about $200 million in debt financing for the project. The job losses at Poseidon follow a wave of redundancies at other mining companies and contractors in the wake of weaker commodity prices.

Sources close to contracting firms at the Windarra site in Western Australia’s Goldfields told The Australian yesterday that about 45 workers were “completely shocked” to be told they had been sacked on Tuesday. They said the move was sudden and contracting firms working at the site had not been previously advised of any shutdown. “They even woke up people who were on night shift to tell them they’d been sacked,” said one worker.

Those made redundant include geologists, geotechnicians, drillers, field assistants, shift bosses, cleaners and caterers. At the meeting on Tuesday, the workers were told that technical problems involving dewatering at the site had forced the shutdown, but that Poseidon Nickel would work to fix the issue.

However, some sources said they had been advised that the real reason for the shutdown was Poseidon’s need to preserve cash amid growing doubts about its ability to raise the finance it needs to build the project. Mr Singleton yesterday denied this, saying the suspension of the successful drilling program had been planned for some time and would give his geologists “thinking time” to plan another campaign.

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