More than 300 employees and contractors at the TEMCO manganese smelter at Bell Bay remain in the dark about what their future may hold, as the owner considers whether to close the ageing facility.
In May last year, resources company South32 announced that it was reviewing future operations of its two manganese alloy smelters: the Tasmanian Electro Metallurgical Company (TEMCO) at Bell Bay and Metalloys in Gauteng, South Africa.
Among the options listed for the smelters were divestment, care and maintenance and closure.
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Australian Manufacturing Workers Union state organiser Jacob Batt said it appeared there were a number of parties interested in purchasing the facility but that the review was still being undertaken.
"It's a very troubling time for a lot of families in [the George Town area]," he said. "[The workers] want to know what's going on."
"If closure was to occur, there'd be at least two companies just within the maintenance area that would be extremely impacted by that, let alone the flow-on effect on other companies in other areas of the site, too."
Premier Peter Gutwein said the state government had met with South32 on numerous occasions, most recently in December, and maintained "a positive and constructive engagement with the company in a way that supports Tasmania's best interests".
A South32 spokeswoman said divestment options continued to be assessed, as did options for closure.
"We are engaging with our employees, governments and all other stakeholders throughout the process," the spokeswoman said.
Established in 1962, TEMCO is a major employer in the George Town area.
South32's half-year results, released two weeks ago, showed that manganese alloy saleable production at TEMCO decreased by 25 per cent in the first half of the 2019-20 financial year when compared to the first half of the previous year.
This was, in part, due to the fact that one of the facility's four furnaces was taken offline, and occurred against the backdrop of falling manganese prices.
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