Two days after mining giant BHP Billiton announced it was scrapping a $30 billion expansion plan in South Australia, its chief Marius Kloppers has warned European investors to stay away from Australia.
According to Fairfax reports, Kloppers told British media that new investments in Australia's coal sector would not be profitable given the country’s carbon and mining taxes.
Klopper’s statement comes after he reassured Australians that the taxes were not to blame for BHP axing the Olympic Dam expansion and just hours before a joint venture between Gina Rinehart's Hancock Coal and GVK won approval from the federal government.
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Rinehart has got a go-ahead to develop its Alpha coal mine and rail project, which has previously been estimated to cost $6.4 billion.
Kloppers also said "a large chunk" of the industry was not making any money and industry sources claim an estimated 2000 mining contractors have been laid off in recent months.
"It seems to me that there is broad industry movement towards personnel reductions, contractor stand-downs and so on in the coal industry," Mr Kloppers said.
A report released on Tuesday showed BHP Billiton's full year net profit has slumped by more than a third to $A14.77 billion.
Related: BHP scraps $30 billion project in Australia as profit slumps
Following the announcement, the mining giant announced its plans to scrap the massive Olympic Dam open pit expansion and would now investigate an alternative, less expensive expansion.
Blame game heats up
Tony Abbott has been accused of running "one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns" seen in Australian politics as a row rages over BHP Billiton's decision.
Kloppers says the decision to can the $30 billion project was forced by rising costs and weaker commodity prices, and had nothing to do with the mining tax, which does not apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.
But speaking to 7.30 Wednesday night, Mr Abbott said the mining and carbon taxes were partly to blame, saying the Government's tax reforms had created a "high-cost environment" and were fuelling market uncertainty for Australian miners.
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His comments have sparked a fierce counterattack from the Government, with Finance Minister Penny Wong accusing him of running a baseless fear campaign.
But Labor has its own problems on the issue, with Senator Wong contradicting Resources Minister Martin Ferguson's earlier assertion that "the mining boom is over".
The political row erupted yesterday when Mr Abbott went on the offensive in the wake of BHP Billiton's decision to delay the flagship South Australian project.
"I didn't say that the carbon tax and the mining tax were solely to blame.
I said that the carbon tax and the mining tax have created an environment where it's much more difficult for investments like this to go ahead," he told host Leigh Sales.
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"I bleed for the people of South Australia tonight because there's 8,000 construction jobs, 4,000 production jobs and 13,000 associated jobs that are at the very best on indefinite hold because of this decision." Mr Abbott admitted he had not read the company's statement on the delay but referred to previous statements by BHP Billiton chairman Jacques Nasser in which he said: "I cannot overstate how the level of uncertainty about Australia's tax system is generating negative investor reaction." "Why does it say nowhere in the BHP statement that there's anything to do with the Federal Government?" Sales asked.
"If you go through the documents they blame weakness in commodity markets, industry-wide cost pressure, instability in the eurozone, the slowdown of growth in China.
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