Mill revival to create jobs

The old Whittaker’s Mill at Greenbushes is to re-open under the ownership of Auswest Timbers in a move that will create more than 20 jobs.

State manager Mike Epp confirmed on Monday Auswest had finalised the acquisition on Friday and was looking to recruit.

“The initial phase will be about 22 people,” he said.

Talison Lithium Greenbushes operations manager and Bridgetown-Greenbushes shire councillor Pat Scallan welcomed the news as a “godsend”.

“You never know, it might have flow-on effects and present further opportunities for employment,” she said.

Shire president John Nicholas was more cautious.

“My immediate reaction is that it’s great for the shire in the sense that it brings back employment but I’m not sure what all of that means,” he said.

“Is there a caveat here in the fact that they’re going to bring people from Deanmill to work in the Greenbushes mill?”

Mr Epp said the company would “try to employ as many of the former employees from Greenbushes as we possibly can”.

Auswest owns the Deanmill and Pemberton sawmills, and the Manjimup Processing Centre and has been negotiating to buy the Greenbushes mill since December.

Mr Epp confirmed Deanmill would close as Auswest continued to restructure, including a $2 million investment in new scanning and docking gear at the processing centre in May.

Auswest will continue to process big native timber logs at Pemberton, while the more modern Greenbushes mill will take small jarrah logs.

“This modern mill is purpose-built to process smaller jarrah logs and proved its capability to do so until Whittakers’ log licence expired in 2014,” Mr Epp said.

He said all of Deanmill’s 35 full-time staff would be offered jobs in other parts of the business as the mill wound down and closed in about six months.

While some staff are already on site at Greenbushes, the first shift is not scheduled to begin work until March, with a second shift to start after Deanmill closes. About 110 workers lost their jobs when Whittaker’s closed in July 2013.