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$250k to keep Leigh Creek "viable"

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Around a quarter of the Weatherill Government’s million dollar support package for displaced Alinta Energy workers will be directed to “supporting the ongoing viability of Leigh Creek”, but Manufacturing Minister Kyam Maher concedes it’s not earmarked for any specific purpose.

“We recognise this money for Leigh Creek is a start,” he told InDaily today.

“Our community engagement team will keep working … we do realise there will be further resources that are needed.”

He said there was “no firm commitment about exactly where that money will go”, suggesting businesses or community organisations may be beneficiaries.

But he insisted the town, purpose-built to service the doomed coal mine, could survive.

“Leigh Creek is a service hub for a number of other communities … a number of pastoral areas,” he said, adding there were “potential tourism opportunities as a gateway to the Flinders”.

“We’re looking to do all we can to make sure there’s an ongoing viability (but) we realise Leigh Creek will not look like it does now – it will become smaller.”

Maher visited Port Augusta today to detail how the million dollar fund would be allocated, with $258,000 earmarked for “regional job creation grants” in Port Augusta, and the same amount in Whyalla.

Maher said grants of between $10,000 and $50,000 would be made available to companies looking to expand and hire new staff. He is meeting local councils today asking them to match the Government’s contribution, and will seek a similar commitment from the Commonwealth.

A further $225,000 will “support Upper Spencer Gulf and Outback supply”.

Alinta has announced the shutdown of its Port Augusta power station and the Leigh Creek coal mine.

In June, the company announced the closure of the operations as early as March next year, but definitely by March 2018.

But the deadline was later brought forward to March 2017, with March 2016 still an option.

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