​Cairns-based business rides the COVID-19 wave through 2020

16.05.2020 Richelle Ward

Up until late March Cairns-based mineral processing service provider International Mill Relines (IMR) had a crew destined to complete work in PNG and $30,000 worth of international flights booked. Within days of the government announcing travel restrictions, “business as usual” went to zero overnight.


Since inception in 2014, IMR has been a born-global business, with 85 percent of business servicing some of South East Asia’s largest producers of gold and copper which are accountable for the countries’ highest GDP.

Managing Director of IMR Andre Cuthbertson says he “underestimated the scale of COVID-19 thinking it would end soon enough and this would be over before any significant changes would occur. I have worked in Africa and other places and thought these things happen all the time.”

“Our employee numbers have reduced by 50 per cent with majority on the Jobkeeper payment. With international flights not scheduled to reopen for some time we are going to do it tough, but we will get through this,” said Mr Cuthbertson.

IMR’s work involves relining grinding mills that essentially reduce large rocks to powder so precious metals can be extracted. The inside lining of the mill wears away with all the grinding and needs to be replaced periodically. Therefore, this work is essential for processing plants.

Due to the complexity and danger involved with this work, the opportunity to provide support via an online meeting is virtually null and void.

“The small amount of support we can provide over the internet won’t work as many of these mines are quite remote without the required internet access, and of course, the language barrier makes it almost impossible,” said Mr Cuthbertson.

Like many businesses affected by the pandemic, IMR pursued other opportunities through domestic channels although the state travel restrictions also make this a difficult task. The extra time and cost of moving capable staff around the country eats into the profit margin.

Again, like many businesses, IMR is positive about the future and with a newfound focus on tech and manufacturing equipment plus working locally they are confident they will still be standing on the other side of COVID-19.

“To other exporters, I say to stay strong and we will get through this. There are always difficulties we need to face in this business,” Mr Cuthbertson said.

IMR is an Export Council of Australia member and the Premier of Queensland’s Export Awards 2019 Mineral, Energy and Related Services Award winner.
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