About 800 people have rallied at the remote Arnhem Land town of Nhulunbuy over the threat by global mining giant Rio Tinto to shut its nearby alumina refinery.
Rio Tinto is due to decide on the future of the Gove refinery, operated by subsidiary Pacific Aluminium, at a meeting in London tomorrow.
About 4,000 people live at Nhulunbuy, and the town, more than 1,000 kilometres east of Darwin, also services Aboriginal communities in the area.
If Rio Tinto decides to shut the refinery, it is believed that at least 1,200 people will lose their jobs.
Locals say more than half the town's population would be forced to leave.
East Arnhem Regional Futures Alliance chairman Klaus Helms told the protest rally at a local sportsground that the community realises it is at crisis point.
"Most of you won't be here if we don't get gas, it's as simple as that," he said.
"We are going to lose up to 2,000 or 2,500 people from this community and the region.
"And we will lose them rapidly.
"A lot of talk is how long the shutdown will take.
"Well, I can tell you, once they turn that key off, it works damn quickly." Rio Tinto has been negotiating with the Territory Government and gas companies to secure a long-term gas supply to power the refinery.
It has also asked the Federal Government to underwrite the construction of a $900 million pipeline to deliver gas to the plant.
The refinery now operates on diesel power, and analysts believe Rio Tinto is losing $30 million a month on the operation.
The Territory Government offered to supply the company with 10 years worth of gas from its domestic supplies, but only if a replacement gas supply could be secured first.
Chief Minister Terry Mills says plans are in place to ensure essential services, including the local hospital, are maintained in Nhulunbuy if the refinery closes.
He says what happens now is a question for Pacific Aluminium.
"This is their town, this is their business and they have a number of contractual arrangements for the people of the Gove area," he said.
"They are the ones who are making this decision.
"They are requiring other players to try and solve this problem and we're doing all we can to solve it." Mr Mills refused to be drawn on any details about what will happen if the refinery is shut down.
"This is not the time, this is not the time and place ...
to discuss the details of contingency plans," he said.
"All the contingency plans if we have some kind of disaster don't have to be aired.
"You just need to be reassured that they are in place."