By Enda Kelly
As news comes out about the temporary closure of Tara Mines by its parent company, it must be made clear how much of an impact this will have on Navan. It has been estimated that 2,000 jobs are likely to be affected, with 650 being directly laid off from the mines. This is despite the mines experiencing profits of €19.75 million in 2021 and being consistently profitable for the last 13 years. The parent company’s reasoning for the closure is down to the decreasing price of zinc, energy price increases and general inflation, which will likely lead to a €100 million loss this year.
Government inaction and failure
The government has responded with surprise to this event despite Eamon Ryan being told about job losses in the mines in May. Leo Varadkar and Ryan state that nothing can be done to counteract this. With only vague promises of helping those affected, which rings hollow given this government’s war on working-class interests, and its failure to support workers in similar situations in the past, such as Debenhams workers. They cannot be trusted to respond to these events.
Zinc is an incredibly important recyclable resource due to its role in galvanising and helping to protect structures, including solar panels, as well as other uses. Thus, it is vital for a transition towards a more environmentally sustainable economy. However, like other metals on the stock market, its price is erratic. Compared to 2021’s price increases, which led to the big profits that year, the drop in zinc’s price is leading the company towards major losses. The result is huge job losses for skilled workers and a lack of access to this resource by closing Europe’s largest zinc mine.
Working-class fightback needed
Clearly, the private market cannot be trusted with the provisions of such vital material. We need the state to nationalise the mine to save jobs and ensure continued access. The mine should be placed democratically in the hands of the workers so it can be run for the benefit of society rather than private interests, which will leave workers on a scrap heap as soon as profits are affected.
The weak response of SIPTU, the union representing most of the workers, has amounted to giving the company a document recommending cost savings to save jobs. In essence, accepting the logic of the free market – a fundamentally anti-worker logic, it should be said. This will likely prove ineffective in any case given the lack of change in the position from the first day of negotiations.
What is required is united action from workers and unions to save jobs, and fight for a radical solution that breaks with the logic of the capitalist market and puts the needs of workers and society first.