Australia's Griffin Coal under administration after debt default

Around 500 workers at one of Western Australia's biggest privately owned companies, Griffin Coal, could lose their jobs after the company was placed under administration following a default in debt installments and tax payments.

The company has debt of around $700 million and failed to meet a 31 December deadline for the payment of installments, and tax liabilities totalling $30 million.

The company, which has been operating since 1923 in the Collie area, southeast of Perth, is controlled by one of Australia's most reclusive businessmen, Ric Stowe.

Administrators Korda Mentha plan to keep the operations running while meetings are held with creditors, workers, the WA state government and unions.

Brian McMaster, the KordaMentha partner says despite the debt problems, the company still retains a good asset.

"Clearly the company owns an important piece of infrastructure and is a major contributor to the south-west economy," he said, adding that selling the business as a going concern or a restructuring are options being evaluated.