BHP nickel closures would end all hope for a WA battery manufacturing industry

BHP’s announcement that it will close its Kambalda nickel concentrator and review the rest of its nickel operations in Western Australia with a view to closure is devastating news for our State.

Shadow Minister for State Development David Honey said the loss of WA’s nickel sector would be a blow to both the State’s economy and ambitions to transition to a green energy future.

“Nickel is a key industrial metal, especially for the manufacture of lithium-ion batteries, which contain more nickel than any other metal,” Dr Honey said.

“The closure of this business unit would result in the loss of more than 2500 direct jobs and a further 7500 related jobs, that’s more than 10,000 high quality/high paying jobs lost from the WA economy.

“The closure of BHP’s nickel operations would also effectively signal the end of any possibility of establishing lithium-ion battery manufacturing in the State, as promised by the Cook Labor Government.”

Dr Honey said the Labor government’s rhetoric of the past seven years about wanting to increase downstream manufacturing in WA had proven to be nothing but spin.

“The McGowan and Cook Labor Governments have overseen the destruction of manufacturing in WA,” he said.

“First, we saw the closure of BP’s Kwinana oil refinery, then just last month, Alcoa announced the closure of its Kwinana alumina refinery and now we have the pending closure of BHP’s nickel operations.

“There are also warning signs in the lithium sector, with cost pressures building, projects being shelved and production curtailed.

“Industry is reeling under the implications of the recently passed Federal Industrial Relations laws that simply add cost and complexity to businesses.

“The Federal Government’s 2030 emissions reduction target and associated carbon tax is a sword of Damocles hanging over the head of every manufacturing business.

“Instead of helping industry, the Cook Labor Government and the Federal Labor Government are adding more cost burdens and roadblocks to our industries that face global competition.

“What is not helpful is the Cook Labor Government announcing its own carbon reduction targets and penalties, overseeing unprecedented delays in approvals and funding environmental activists.”

Dr Honey said urgent action was needed from the Cook Labor Government and its Federal counterparts to prevent the closure of BHP’s nickel business.

“It needs much more than a knee-jerk announcement about a royalty reduction,” he said.

“The Government should be facilitating tripartite discussions with BHP and the unions to understand what BHP needs to keep these operations running.”

WA Liberal Leader Libby Mettam said that while global factors were making it harder for BHP’s nickel business, the litany of Labor Government failures were the final nail in the coffin for this and other manufacturers.

“There are more than $318 billion worth of projects in WA that are currently being delayed waiting for approvals and proponents of 40 per cent of those projects are considering abandoning their operations for good because of those delays,” she said.

“Unless the Cook Government acts and acts soon, today’s announcement by BHP could simply be the tip of the iceberg.

“It is time for the Cook Labor Government to stop the spin and do the hard work needed to make sure that the BHP nickel business stays operating in WA.”