Residents are wondering what the future holds for Nhulunbuy after mining. (105.7 ABC Darwin: Emilia Terzon)
Businesses in the remote Top End town of Nhulunbuy are concerned about high costs and the uncertainty of the future of mining in the region, and say they’re not being supported by the Northern Territory Government.
The East Arnhem Chamber of Commerce said local businesses are facing uncertainty about Rio Tinto’s mining operation.
“I think it’s a concern in general for businesses, how long the town’s got in longevity,” said chairman David Suter.
Nhulunbuy was created in the 1960s after the establishment of a mining operation in the region.
But after the closure of the Gove Alumina Refinery in 2014, the town’s population halved to about 2,000 people.
Rio Tinto still runs a small bauxite mining operation but businesses are concerned about its future.
Max Pearson owns a local hire car company, and said he’s unsure about his company’s viability once mining ends.
“I may be six feet under by then, it’ll make it tough… just the cost of living here has gone through the roof,” he said.
Max Pearson says the cost of living in Nhulunbuy ‘has gone through the roof’. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
He said the Government hadn’t provided people with enough information about the town’s future.
“They won’t tell anybody, that’s the problem; there’s no information,” he said.
In a statement to the ABC, a spokeswoman for Rio Tinto said it will keep the community and market informed about the operation.
“There are sufficient reserves to support mining well beyond the next decade,” she said.
“As we move closer to the end of bauxite mining discussions will be held with Traditional Owners and the Northern Territory Government on the future of the town.”
Rates in Nhulunbuy almost triple that of Darwin
Mr Pearson said high rates in the town makes it difficult to run a commercial operation.
“We have a problem in Nhulunbuy, it is exploitation of rates,” he said.
“My beef is: why is it that rates in Nhulunbuy have to be double the value of someone else living in the Territory?”
The Nhulunbuy Corporation, which is owned by Rio Tinto, acts like a local council for the town, and said it levies rates like any normal government.
It said it is owed 11 per cent of its total rates, which amounts to nearly $600,000.
David Suter says people are worried about the town’s longevity. (ABC News: Mitchell Wollnough)
Rates in Darwin are about $1,000 per year, while rates in Nhulunbuy are nearly $3,000 per year.
“There has been a significant increase in commercial properties which of course affects Chamber of Commerce members, they’ve voiced their concerns to us about that,” said Mr Suter.
Last month the local Member for Nhulunbuy, Yingiya Mark Guyula, questioned Chief Minister Michael Gunner about how the Government is looking after Nhulunbuy residents amid high rent prices, high rates, high airfares, and difficult road access.
“We are working with developing East Arnhem Land around housing… to essentially encourage business investment in Nhulunbuy as diversification away from the mine, to reduce reliance on the mine and try to create a private sector investment,” Mr Gunner said.
Chris Rippon runs a local fishing shop, and said he was confident about the future of Nhulunbuy but said mining had to be replaced by another industry.
“I think we need to look at getting tourism really up and running and pushing that… there should be a Gove after the mine goes.”