QMAG steels itself to grow

By MIKE SCOTT ? QUEENSLAND Magnesia (QMAG) is shaking off the bad times with plans to create up to 250 jobs with expansions to its Central Queensland operation.

A $50 million expansion of its Parkhurst plant is proposed for next year creating 150 temporary and 50 permanent jobs, operations manager John Malloy said.

This is on top of a $7 million injection at its Kunwarara magnesite mine, 70km north of Rockhampton, announced last week, which will create another 50 construction jobs and increase its raw material excavation.

With a super-strong international steel market the company intended to invest in the Parkhurst plant to eventually double its magnesia production, Mr Malloy said yesterday.

"It's very much tied to the steel industry.

"It's booming at the moment and we're working to run the plant flat out.

"Because we were flat out here, we were going to expand but that had been difficult under AMC (Australian Magnesium Corporation).

"We're shaking off AMC and becoming a much more healthy company.''

Under AMC ownership QMAG was in danger of going into receivership. The parent company had started construction of a $1.5 billion magnesium smelter near Stanwell Power Station but it collapsed in 2003.

QMAG's sale to Resource Capital Funds (RCF) in December has re-invigorated the company and provided job security for its 300 employees.

The $7 million investment in Kunwarara and the proposed investment in Parkhurst would further improve job security, Mr Malloy said.

QMAG produces 200,000 tonnes of magnesia which is mostly exported to Europe.

The expansion plans will boost this figure to 300,000 tonnes but the ultimate goal was 400,000 tonnes, he said.

A largely untapped market was the United States.

QMAG's new owners RCF had steel interests in Baltimore, Maryland, which would help open export channels, Mr Malloy said.

After recent bad times it was pleasing to announce to employees and the community that the company was moving forward and growing, he said.

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