Saturday, 26 January 2013 10:24
The Northern Territory government says it is still fighting to broker a deal to save an alumina refinery that supports an outback town.
With less than one week until the 31 January deadline imposed by mining giant Rio Tinto, no deal has yet been brokered to take natural gas to Gove.
"We are in the game zone," NT chief minister Terry Mills said.
"The pressure is still on and we are still fighting," he said.
Rio Tinto subsidiary Pacific Aluminium has said if it can't run the Gove alumina refinery on natural gas it may shut the plant, which could see 800 people lose jobs.
Currently the plant runs on diesel, which is expensive to transport and buy.
The job losses would devastate the small community of Nhulunbuy that has about 3500 residents, most of whom depend on the Gove operation to survive financially.
Analysts have speculated that a proposal unveiled by the NT government recently to secure a deal on taking gas to Gove will fall short.
There have been fears that allocating Pacific Aluminium enough gas to power the Gove refinery move could lead to a gas shortage in the NT.
Rio Tinto has flagged it will engage in $US14 billion ($13.45 billion) in asset write downs in February, most of which will be from its aluminium assets.
Analysts say the refinery has recently been losing $US30 million ($28.82 million) each month, and about $US200 million ($192.13 million) in the past 12 months.
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