Palmer's new play could save some workers
Clive Palmer – a politician and mining magnate of indeterminable wealth – appears to have taken control of his ailing nickel refinery once more.
After reaching out to the Queensland and federal governments to support the struggling business, Palmer now appears to have put up $23 million in funding to keep the Yabulu nickel refinery from being closed down.
The nickel refinery’s profits were hit hard by Palmer’s practice of using them to plump up the coffers of the Palmer United political party.
But as with everything linked to Palmer, things are more complicated than they appear.
A new conditional fund facility has been set up under a new company called Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd, which is set to replace Queensland Nickel as the official manager of the Yabulu Refinery.
The refinery is currently under voluntary administration, with its appointed minders FTI Consulting saying Clive Mensink as Director of QNI Resources Pty Ltd and QNI Metals Pty Ltd decided to replace Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd as joint venture manager.
“The actions of Clive Palmer, Clive Mensink, and their related entities are beyond the control of the Administrators,” a statement from FTI Consulting claims.
“It is understood the conditional funding facility will be secured against assets outside of Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd which were not available to the Administrators in the discharge of their duties as manager of the Yabulu Refinery.”
FTI Consulting says it will continue to act as the voluntary administrators of Queensland Nickel, but it will not have any operational or managerial control of the Yabulu Refinery.
So if things go as planned, the big mining MP will run a new joint venture, replacing Queensland Nickel as manager of Yabulu and associated port facilities in Townsville.
Palmer says the new enterprise will take on existing Queensland Nickel staff on identical terms and conditions of employment, but there has been no word on any redeployment of the 237 already retrenched workers.
FTI Consulting says retrenched workers are considered creditors of Queensland Nickel, but will not say how much they are owed.
Reports say Palmer’s latest move will keep work ticking over, but there are rumours that Queensland Nickel could still owe up to $100 million to creditors.