Clive Palmer says his Yabulu refinery in north Queensland is not expected to reopen until the end of July, and has blamed his young daughter for a tweet of a gnome giving the finger to Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt.
Holding his first press conference since the refinery’s 550 workers were sacked on Friday, Mr Palmer said there were a number of outstanding issues that needed to be resolved before the plant could run.
“Our projected start up date is currently estimated to be July 31,” he said.
“That may be able to be changed in either direction in relation to the applications which are before the government.
“We think we’ve got it, we just want to work through it and reopen the refinery as soon as we can.”
Queensland Nickel Sales (QNS), a Clive Palmer-owned company, took over as manager of the Yabulu refinery last week after former manager Queensland Nickel – another of Mr Palmer’s businesses – went into voluntary administration and sacked more than 200 workers in January.
Mr Palmer said administrators of Queensland Nickel had cancelled ore shipments and owed QNS cash, two reasons which were impeding the refinery’s reopening.
Furthermore, he added QNS was still awaiting government approvals and its financiers had to be convinced there would not be a continuation of attacks on refinery management.
Naughty gnome ‘not my fault’
The tweet was directed at Treasurer Curtis Pitt, who on Sunday said he would consider a bailout of the company if Mr Palmer exited its operations.
On Monday, Mr Palmer said his seven-year-old daughter was behind the post, adding that he “could not stop her”.
“She loves bald people,” he said.
Palmer open, but sceptical of workers’ takeover
About 300 former workers met on Monday with Townsville group Sister City Partners, who have proposed taking over the refinery in a joint venture.
The workers voted to support the bid, however Mr Palmer questioned whether they would have the finances.
“Not just to buy it, but $600 million to $700 million a year in turn over,” he said.
“It’s really a question of whether they will be able to get that support to run the operation successfully.
“We have to be open and prepared to do whatever is required.
Damien Herrmann has worked at Queensland Nickel for nine years and was among the workers at the meeting.
“I think it’s very viable … because the nickel price is up and down, eventually it’ll go up it’s just that type of market,” Mr Herrmann said.