Venture Minerals has suspended mining operations at its Riley Creek iron ore mine in Tasmania’s west, citing the ongoing appeals against the project and an unfavourable economic environment as the major reasons.
“After receiving full approvals for the project in 2013 and having secured financing, including an iron ore hedge facility at a time of higher iron ore prices, Venture was well placed to fully underwrite the life of the project,” Venture managing director Hamish Halliday said in the ASX announcement.
“It’s therefore with regret that ongoing appeals have delayed the project and deprived shareholders and the Tasmanian community of this opportunity in the medium term.”
However, Mr Halliday added that the company would continue to monitor the situation closely.
“Venture remains well placed to take advantage of any change in the circumstance that would support a production decision at the Riley project,” he said.
“In respect to the Mt Lindsay tin/tungsten, the company continues to progress and evaluate financing options for the development of its flagship asset.”
According to the ABC, the project has been subject to appeals against its approvals since mid-2013, with environmental group Save the Tarkine, which failed to have the mine’s approval dismissed in May and lodged a second appeal in June, at the forefront of the campaign against the miner.
Scott Jordan from Save the Tarkine welcomed the company’s decision to suspend operations.
“This mine should never have been approved, it shouldn’t have even been contemplated in an area like the Tarkine wilderness,” he said.
However, Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council CEO Jeremy Kouw said the decision by Venture was disappointing and motivated by the continuing delays they have experienced through the legal challenges and appeals brought by minority groups.
“This is another disappointing announcement for the West Coast and for Tasmania following Venture Minerals’ decision to suspend operations of the Riley project. Ironically if the mining activity at Riley had proceeded after the initial approval for the project last year, it would now be in operation employing over 60 Tasmanians and putting $40 million a year directly into the Tasmanian economy for the next two and a half years,” he said.
“This is again clear evidence that as a state we have real issues with project approval processes which are sapping investor confidence in putting money into Tasmania and creating the jobs we so desperately need.”
State Resources Minister Paul Harriss was also disappointed by Venture’s decision to suspend operations at the mine.
“This is the strategy Green front groups such as Save the Tarkine use to threaten mines and the jobs they bring,” he said.
“The Greens should not, however, be popping the champagne corks as Venture has signalled that it remains committed to Riley and to its flagship Mt Lindsay project.”
Federal MP for Braddon Brett Whiteley said he was confident that Save the Tarkine will be defeated in the courts and forced to pay a legal bill in excess of $150,000 as the Federal Government and Venture Minerals seek to recover court costs.