Glencore has announced the closure of its copper mining operations in Mount Isa by the end of 2025, resulting in the loss of approximately 1,000 jobs. However, the company plans to maintain its refinery and smelters in North Queensland.
The decision to close the three underground copper mines in Mt Isa by the second half of 2025 marks the end of copper mining in far northwest Queensland. Copper mining in Mount Isa has a history of around 60 years, previously being a silver, lead, and zinc mining and processing operation.
Glencore’s Zinc Assets Australia Chief Operating Officer, Sam Strohmayr, expressed disappointment for employees, suppliers, and the Mount Isa community. He emphasized the natural life cycle of mines and the need to adapt to changing circumstances.
Glencore intends to continue investing in the long-term future of Mount Isa Mines, including the George Fisher Mine, zinc-lead concentrator, and lead smelter, with the expectation that the copper smelter and refinery will operate until 2030, pending additional capital investment approval.
Despite efforts to extend the mines’ life through studies, Glencore determined that it was no longer economically viable due to depleted mineral resources. The company is notifying its workers and the community nearly two years in advance to allow them ample time to explore their options.
Around 1,200 people are employed at the mine and associated facilities. Glencore will work closely with its employees, considering retention, redeployment, and retraining options before considering redundancies as a last resort.
Regarding the sale of the copper mines, Glencore has sold mining assets in the past, as seen with the sale of the Ernest Henry copper gold mine in early 2022 to Evolution Mining. Evolution Mining has extended the mine’s life through significant investments in exploration and feasibility studies, projecting operations until around 2040.
While Glencore’s plans for selling the Mount Isa copper mines are uncertain, the precedent set by the sale of the Ernest Henry mine suggests that potential buyers like Evolution Mining could show interest in acquiring the assets.