• Rio Tinto will close its alumina Gove refinery in the Northern Territory. (AAP)
About 1,100 jobs will be lost next year when mining giant Rio Tinto closes its Gove alumina refinery in the Northern Territory.
29 Nov 2013 - 5:12 PM  UPDATED 29 Nov 2013 - 6:31 PM

Nearly one quarter of the population of the Northern Territory community of Nhulunbuy will be out of work when Rio Tinto closes it's alumina refinery.

The company will begin phasing out production of aluminium at the beginning of next year, putting over one thousand Indigenous workers out of employment.

The company has come under intense criticism in parliament today, the Prime Minister Tony Abbott saying Rio Tinto has an obligation to the community and especially to those who have bought houses and businesses in the area.

Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles reassured community members that he will find a solution for those seeking financial assistance.

"People have asked the Australian government to be able to provide resources so people who have home loans or business loans or financial situations where people need assistance," says Minister Giles.

About 4000 people live in Nhulunbuy and about 1500 work at the Gove refinery. Most of the other businesses in the area support the mining activity.

"It was as full as I've ever seen that place. People were hanging out the doors and windows," said Dean Johnson, a bore operator at Rio's bauxite mine.

"It was mainly businesspeople who've invested in the town in one way or another. Those poor people are losing out twofold, they've got families and bought houses here," he told AAP.

"There were some tears, and you could hear it breaking up in their voices. Towards the end it got a bit bitter."

Rio says key factors in the decision were continuing low alumina prices, a high exchange rate and substantial after-tax losses for the refinery despite considerable efforts to improve performance.

It said it would try to create new opportunities for employees, which could involve fly-in fly-out work in the Pilbara or on Darwin's Inpex LNG plant.

Earlier this week, the managing director of Rio Tinto was appointed to the prime minister's Advisory Council, but now his company's Indigenous employment strategy faces a huge challenge.