Rio Tinto has applied to the NSW Supreme Court to fast track its bid to reverse a court decision blocking the extension of its Warkworth coal project in the Hunter Valley. The company has said failure to do so would lead to "many hundreds of job losses".
Rio has already cut 40 jobs after its permission to expand the Mount Thorley mine was overturned in the NSW Land and Environment Court last month after residents from the tiny town of Bulga succeeded in in blocking the project.
Rio appealed against the decision last week, and applied on Monday to expedite the appeals process.
In an affidavit filed with the original appeal, it said the immediate effect of not being able to proceed with the extension was that an area known as Saddleback Ridge could not be mined, and that coal production would drop from 12 million tonnes a year to 10 million tonnes.
"Significant job losses are expected if economic conditions remain the same unless the mine can maintain its volume of product coal produced," it said. "Not being able to maintain the production level at 12 million tonnes for 2014 is likely to result in many hundreds of job losses."
Rio said the project had an existing workforce of 1300, and the extension would create an additional 150 jobs over the life of the mine.
The NSW Land and Environment Court's decision has been slammed by Rio and industry bodies, including the Australian Coal Association, for increasing uncertainty in an industry already besieged by weak pricing and the strong Australian dollar.
Opponents of the mining lobby say Rio has overstated the number of jobs the mine would create.
"These types of claims are all too common in economic assessments commissioned by the coal industry," Australia Institute executive director Richard Denniss said.
- Rio Tinto plans to almost halve the size of its London head office, Reuters reports, cutting more than 200 jobs as it tries to slash more than $US5 billion ($4.8 billion) in costs by the end of next year.
Rio has been reviewing high-cost office locations, including London, since last year, as it battles falling commodity prices.
The internal announcement said Rio aimed to reduce the number of London-based jobs to 262 from 479. It also wants to cut the number of Johannesburg employees.