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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 July 2006, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
China clay job cuts close docks
China clay pit
There are seven china clay pits in nearby St Austell
A commercial port in Cornwall is to cease trading and axe nearly 200 jobs as part of cuts carried out by a china clay company.

The cuts at Par Docks are part of plans announced earlier in the week by Imerys to make 800 workers redundant.

The docks will stop being used for ships exporting clay, and two-thirds of the site's clay dryers will close.

Imerys said it regretted the cuts, but said they were necessary to protect the future of its business.

Massive blow

The company blamed high energy prices, a weak dollar and strong overseas competition for significant business losses.

The move is a massive blow for the area, which was originally built to provide housing for clay workers at the docks.

China clay is piped to the harbour near St Austell in slurry form and then dried at the docks' dryers before being exported by boat, road or rail.

The dryers for paper-coating clay will close by the end of 2007, but the dryers for performance minerals and ceramics clay will be unaffected.

The county council has spent a vast amount of money
Cllr Joan Vincent

County and borough councillor, Joan Vincent, said the closure would badly affect the area, especially after a large amount had recently been spent there to help the china clay industry.

She said: "The county council has spent a vast amount of money to alter Skew Bridge to get lorries under there."

She said that money had now been wasted.

Parliament is to debate demands for government help, after Truro and St Austell Lib Dem MP Matthew Taylor, requested an adjournment debate.

The Department of Trade and Industry said there would be no financial help, but staff would have retraining advice.

The UK operations director for Imerys, Ashley Shopland, said the company was disappointed with the government's attitude to the job losses.

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