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Gupta keeping quiet as Nyrstar confirms job losses

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British Industrialist Sanjeev Gupta has confirmed his group’s interest in developing its own smelting operations in South Australia but has declined to comment on possibly working with the troubled Nyrstar operations at Port Pirie.

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Gupta, who rescued the Whyalla steelworks, says he already has a team examining the development of a copper smelter in the region.

But on the question of Nyrstar, he’s told ABC radio that he has a policy of not commenting on speculation and issues that “shouldn’t really be talked about in public unless they become reality”.

Gupta’s comments come amid turmoil at Nyrstar this week, with analysts overseas telling investors to dump the European company’s stock. A market plunge on Monday saw the company’s share price drop by 41 per cent on the Brussels exchange.

The market shock caused consternation locally, where the State Government-underwritten Port Pirie smelter is a major employer in the Iron Triangle.

After a week of speculation, the company has now confirmed it will cut 120 jobs from its Port Pirie operations in 2019.

In a statement, Nyrstar said it would “gradually reduce the number of employee positions and contractors throughout 2019”.

“As the transformation of the smelter includes shutting down obsolete and outdated equipment, we will reduce positions at Port Pirie by approximately 120 employees and contractors in 2019,” the company said.

“We will achieve the majority of these changes through natural attrition, a change in the scope of work undertaken by some roles, redeployment of some people to different roles and by not extending a number of the limited tenure employee’s contracts. We will ensure if additional requirements are added to a role that they will be able to be performed successfully keeping safety as our number one priority.”

The State Government underwrote $291 million of the $660 million redevelopment of Nyrstar’s Port Pirie operations in order to keep jobs in the city.

In May, Treasurer Rob Lucas said the company would defer payments to its international financiers by 18 months until November 2019.

– with AAP

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