FNQ mine owes workers thousands in unpaid wages
UNPAID workers and suppliers fear they will not see a cent after a Far North mining company shut operations citing coronavirus health concerns - although financial troubles preceded the pandemic by months.
Consolidated Tin Mines has shut its Mount Garnet and Surveyor Project mines with a skeleton crew still operating for "care and maintenance".
The ASX-listed company has attributed the shutdown to COVID-19 but issues existed long before the health crisis.
Consolidated Tin director Ralph De Lacey said debts were owed but said the focus was on restarting operations.
He said he was resisting attempts by people trying to force the company into liquidation.
"This would be the worst outcome for the company in the current circumstances. The best outcome for the company and creditors is to restart the mine and generate cash flow and jobs and pay off debts that are owed," he said.
The list of unpaid workers is long, and includes Cairns electrician Ben Davis.
He said he was owed about $39,500 in wages and another $10,000 in superannuation, and had not been paid since receiving a 35 per cent salary portion on January 23.
He argued that blaming COVID-19 did not add up.
"We were made redundant before the coronavirus stuff even started," he said.
Kewarra Beach man Jason Gearn was a maintenance supervisor at the firm's Surveyor Project mine about 150km from Mount Garnet.
He said he was owed about $12,000 in wages and superannuation, the latter of which was last paid in September.
He yesterday received his first JobSeeker payment but had already racked up about $6000 in debt to his parents.
Mr Gearn's housemate and former co-worker Priscilla Matthews was reportedly owed about $16,000.
"We had a really good team and we did our best on the ground," Mr Gearn said.
"But instead of just running the two mines they had, (the company) went and tried to buy out Chillagoe for $50 million.
"How were they going to buy a mine?"
The company had tried to buy mining company Auctus's Chillagoe mine but the sale fell through last month.
A shareholder notice on March 23 said the purchase would not go ahead because Auctus had not provided its audited accounts.
Auctus countered that it had terminated the sale because Consolidated Tin had not paid a $2 million deposit.
Consolidated Tin issued a statement the following day saying the Mount Garnet and Surveyor mines had been closed due to health concerns surrounding COVID-19.
A week later, another ASX announcement stated Auctus had issued a notice of demand for more than $4.5 million for the break fee and interest on the deposit over the failed mine sale.
Consolidated Tin disputed that figure.
EX-WORKER SAYS FIRM OWES HIM $18,000
CONSOLIDATED Tin Mines went into voluntary administration in 2016 with more than $50 million in debts.
It was back in operation by the end of the year - but this history inspires little confidence in Townsville-based former mine shift supervisor Jason Domin.
He told the Cairns Post he had not been paid wages or his redundancy package, and had received no super contributions since November.
Mr Domin said salaries came in late about Christmas last year, and again in January, with management blaming issues with overseas banking.
"We had the same (late payment) dramas in 2018," he said.
"I've been taking money out of my home loan.
"I'm lucky I wasn't stupid and wasting my money.
"But that shouldn't matter - I'm owed more than $18,000."
Mareeba Tyrepower owner John Raso said he was $25,989 out of pocket from three separate unpaid bills - all of which were one to three months overdue.
"There's not much margin in tyres, and that money takes years to make up," he said.
"A loss like that hurts."
Cairns-based Senator Nita Green wrote to Consolidated Tin last week citing "deeply concerning" allegations about the company withholding pay and legal entitlements.
"I have raised this matter personally with the Fair Work Ombudsman," she wrote.
"If you do owe any current or former employees, I would strongly advise you to pay them their legal entitlements without further delay."
A Fair Work Ombudsman spokeswoman said inquiries were underway but she could provide no further comment.
Consolidated Tin also owns the Mount Garnet Hotel, where its fly-in, fly-out employees often board.
Originally published as FNQ mine owes workers thousands in unpaid wages