Clive Palmer has seized back control of his ailing north Queensland nickel refinery by sidelining administrators that had been called in to manage it.
Administrators FTI Consulting announced on Monday that Queensland Nickel Pty Ltd had been replaced as the Yabulu Refinery’s manager by Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd which is run by Mr Palmer and controlled by two of his entities.
Mr Palmer said funding – believed to be about $23 million – had been secured against assets outside Queensland Nickel Sales Pty Ltd to keep the refinery and associated Townsville Port facilities open.
“I have been working diligently for weeks to find a solution to secure the long term operations of the Yabulu Refinery and its workforce in the best interests of the Townsville economy,” he said in a statement.
While the federal MP said he had fought hard to keep the business operating, he took aim at the Queensland government, accusing it of doing nothing to help refinery workers.
The restructure means FTI Consulting will no longer oversee operations but will continue to look at how it was managed and why it went into administration.
They will also evaluate proposals put forward for any potential restructure or liquidation of the firm and make recommendations to creditors by April 15.
It will then be up to creditors to decide the future of the refinery.
FTI Consulting said they had no control over the actions of Mr Palmer and his nephew, Clive Mensink, who is the director of QNI Resources Pty Ltd and QNI Metals Pty Ltd – the two entities which now control the refinery.
In a statement, they said prior to being replaced as manager they had given “strong consideration” to placing the refinery into care and maintenance due to trading losses as well as concerns over plant maintenance, safety and environmental issues.
Queensland Treasurer Curtis Pitt said Mr Palmer needed to provide more details about the new arrangement, including the impact on creditors and workers.
The restructure comes after the state government refused to consider a request from administrators for a $10 million loan guarantee to keep the refinery open unless it agreed to several conditions – including Mr Palmer’s removal from the company.
But, with the businessman-turned-politician back at the helm of the $2 billion refinery, that option is off the table.
Before announcing he had regained control, Mr Palmer questioned why he would give it up when there wasn’t another buyer available.
Queensland Nickel was placed into voluntary administration in January, just days after 237 workers were sacked from the refinery.
Mr Palmer has said the restructure will not impact employment terms for the refinery’s 550 current workers.