Rates fight holds up mine
The owners of a much-lauded nickel mining project in Tasmania's west say a rates stoush has stalled their plans.
Dundas Mining bought the Avebury mine for $25 million in 2017 and said it would reopen the facility after almost a decade of care and maintenance.
In 2018, then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and Premier Will Hodgman toured the site, promising a support package of $3.5 million in payroll tax relief to assist the reopening.
Reports said Dundas would recruit 200 mining, processing and administration workers and have the mine back in production by January 2019.
Today, there is very little activity at the site.
West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers says the operators of the mine owe the council around $1 million in unpaid rates, and have not been in touch with council for “several months”.
The company reportedly asked for a reduction in rates because it was not producing any ore.
“We considered that request and offered to defer part of the current rates until he got underway, but he didn't accept that offer,” Cr Vickers said.
“His company bought the mine and one would have assumed as part of their due diligence they would have looked at how much the rates and charges to the local council were.
“My understanding is that … an underground mining engineer who actually worked there when it opened has been engaged to do a little bit of preparatory work on reopening the underground, but to my knowledge that's the only thing that happened.”
Dundas Mining chief executive Geoffrey Summers said the rates bill was “unconstitutional” and “potentially illegal”, and called for all Australians to boycott council rates.
“There needs to be a royal commission into local council and tax in Australia,” he said.
“Everyone in Australia should stop paying rates until this issue is sorted out.”
Mr Summers has spoken to lawyers about taking West Coast Council to the High Court.
“Frankly, the whole council should just go, there isn't the population to even properly justify them,” he said.
“I've already been speaking with a QC about this.”