Weekly Writer / Newcastle Mirage
At the time it seemed an unthinkable and devastating move. The BHP steelworks had helped put Newcastle on the map and made the city’s name synonymous within the industrial trade industry during its 84 years of operation. When BHP eventually closed its doors on September 30, 1999, while it was praised as a positive step forward for the city’s future, many were left feeling uncertain and worried. At the time, Newcastle’s unemployment rate was at 12 per cent and it was expected around 10,000 new jobs would need to be created in response to the closure. With many employees having worked their entire careers at the steelworks, there was understandable frustration and concerns. While many feared it was the end of an era for Newcastle, it would seem both parties have actually benefited since the controversial closure. While BHP has certainly grown it’s empire since being a part of our city, Newcastle still remains a strong player in the industry, boasting the largest port on the east coast of Australia that ranks number one in coal exporting. The economy of our city has also continued to grow, and as an added bonus, the haze that filled the Newcastle sky at the time promptly disappeared after the closure. While BHP helped make Newcastle and Newcastle helped make BHP, it seems both are doing more than fine on their own.