|Atlas Iron Maintains Production at Two Out of Three Mines|
Iron ore miner Atlas has reversed its decision to mothball all of its operations, temporarily at least.
Three weeks ago the miner announced production would cease by the end of April at all three of its sites in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.
At the time Atlas said the decision had been forced by falling iron ore prices, despite considerable cost cutting.
But today Atlas advised the ASX mining will continue throughout May at two of the three sites.
Production will continue at the Abydos site and be resumed shortly at Wodgina, though mining and processing will remain suspended at Mt Webber.
The announcement is expected to give a reprieve to around 400 of the 600 workers affected by the original decision.
"The decision to continue operating at these projects ... is the result of a substantial reduction in forecast cash costs for May," Atlas said in its statement to the ASX on the decision.
"The cost reductions were achieved with the support of Atlas' key service providers."
Iron ore prices have recovered from under $US50 a tonne when the suspension was announced to as high as $US59.20 a tonne earlier this week.
The price has since backtracked a little to $US56.20 a tonne.
"Atlas expects to be cash flow-positive in May," today's ASX statement said.
"This is based on target all-in cash costs plus interest and sustaining capital expense."
But Atlas shares remain suspended and the company has given no indication of its intentions beyond this month.
Hopefully they continue, workers get a reprieve: CFMEU
CFMEU mining and resources division secretary Gary Wood said any reprieve for the workers was helpful in an industry where jobs were becoming rare.
"Obviously it's a positive in the shorter term and one can only hope there's an increase in [the iron ore] price to make it a sustainable operation," he said.
"It is a positive and hopefully they can continue and the workers do get that reprieve because there's no opportunities out there in the field at this time.
"I think they would have been running as efficiently as they can so it all comes back down to the price of ore."
Regional Development Australia (RDA) Pilbara chief Diane Pentz said she remained concerned about the number of people who had been retrenched.
She said the mining company's announcement was a "bright light" that was welcomed by the RDA Pilbara and by people in the community.
"I'm sure that it's a relief to a lot of people who are employed within this resource industry and I think it also starts to signal that there is some confidence around the recovery of the iron ore price," Ms Pentz said.