Falling coal prices have led Rio Tinto to announce the closure of mining operations at the Blair Athol Mine, located near Clermont in Central Queensland, Australia, at the end of 2012.
Mining operations at the site have been in progress for the last 30 years and, depending on the mine operations over the next few months, the final day of production could be before December 2012.
Rio Tinto Coal Australia operations general manager for the Clermont region Dawid Pretorius said that the production at Blair Athol has progressively reduced since 2010.
"After close to three decades, Blair Athol Mine’s coal seams are largely mined out and the time has come to finish production," Pretorius said.
"As coal prices rose in recent times we looked to extend the life of the mine by mining a poorer quality coal and harder to reach seam for a few more years."
"Unfortunately, the recent significant drop in thermal coal prices, and other factors such as rising costs and the foreign exchange rate, mean this is no longer a feasible option and we will keep to the original plan to finish production in 2012," added Pretorius.
Following closure of the mine, the workers at Rio Tinto Coal Australia will be absorbed into the company’s coal handling, preparation plant and rail load-out facilities.
The company said it will continue to support its employees, as well as the local community, through its nearby Clermont Mine and ongoing investment in other partnerships.
"A programme called My Future Plan has given employees a chance to discuss their preferred options with their leaders and obtain assistance with seeking other employment," Pretorius said.
Image: Rio Tinto will close the mine by Decemeber 2012. Photo: Courtesy of Rio Tinto