A phosphate mining company has scooped-up a $20 million “facilities management” contract at the Christmas Island detention centre for the next three years.
The news comes after revelations in Senate estimates that the controversial and near-empty Christmas Island facility has cost almost $27 million since it was reopened this year.
CI Resources Limited is an ASX-listed company with mining and agricultural interests on Christmas Island, a remote Australian territory in the Indian Ocean.
The Morrison government recommissioned the Christmas Island facility in February, citing fears of an influx of asylum seekers tied to changes to refugee medical transfer laws.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison poses for photographs outside the Christmas Island detention centre Source: AAP
Home Affairs officials told a recent estimates committee that more than 100 staff have been on hand at the detention centre, which currently holds just four people.
Sri Lankan parents Nades and Priya and their young daughters Kopika and Tharnicaa are the only people held at the detention centre, where they await the outcome of their legal fight against deportation.
A record listed on the federal government’s Austender procurement website said CI Resources won the contract after an open tender.
The contract, for “concierge and facilities management services”, was worth $20,646,935 across three years.
The contract was awarded by the Department of Home Affairs.
CI Resources has been mining phosphate on Christmas Island for almost 30 years, and the company describes itself as a key source of economic activity on the island.
The company has been paid more than $200,000 in other Christmas Island maintenance contracts since 2017.
CI Resources managing director Lai Ah Hong said the maintenance contract would help the company employ locals.
It is not clear how many jobs the contract will create.
Priya, her husband Nadesalingam and their Australian-born children Kopika, four, and Tharunicaa, two. Source: hometobilo.com
“This new contract, effective from 1 July 2019, covers the north west point facility (previously managed by Serco),” he said in the company’s recent annual report.
“The term of the contract is for three years, with two 12-month options for extensions.
“This is a wonderful result for [CI Resources Management Services] and the Christmas Island Community.
“This contract will provide continued employment opportunities for locals and contracts over its term while helping deliver on our diversification strategy.”
In 2018 the federal government rejected an application from CI Resources to undertake exploration drilling on Christmas Island.
“The recent decision by the former Minister for the Environment and Energy to reject [the] application to undertake an exploration drilling program involving the re-clearing a total of some 6.8 hectares on historic drill lines on Christmas Island is disappointing for…employees, shareholders and long-term island residents,” the company wrote in its 2018 annual report.
“At a time when some members of the Christmas Island community are facing a challenging economic future with the impending closure of the immigration detention centre, it is unfortunate the government has deemed the potential to sustain the mining operation beyond its current mine life to be less important than the unfounded representations of those opposed to mining and development.”
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.