RIO Tinto last week announced that operations at its Northern Territory-based Gove refinery will soon cease as a result of long-term losses at the project, with Rio saying it will instead pursue plans to strengthen the organisation’s bauxite operation.

Rio Tinto, which this week commenced consultation with the 1500-strong workforce, the state and federal governments and the Traditional Owners in the lead up to the closure, said the business model for the alumina refinery was no longer viable.

“This has been an extremely difficult decision and we recognise it will have a significant impact on our employees, the local community and the Northern Territory,”  Rio Tinto chief executive Sam Walsh said.

“Our aluminium business is facing challenging market conditions and tough decisions are needed, but those decisions are so much harder when our employees and local communities are affected as they are in Nhulunbuy.”

Chief Minister Adam Giles said the government worked tirelessly to secure a gas agreement that would prolong the Gove operation.

“Rio Tinto has categorically acknowledged that this decision had nothing to do with the Government’s gas offer for the refinery and that there is nothing more we could have done to turn the situation around,” he said.

“Now is the time to look to the future and I have secured an assurance from Rio Tinto that they will be making the continuation of a viable Gove community and economy a priority.”

Rio Tinto have agreed to continue the supply of essential services for the mining-based township, including power, water and sewerage, while the state government works to refocus Gove’s economic foundation.