Windimurra, near Mt Magnet, was closed and dismantled in 2004. It had been built in 1998 with contributions of about $30 million from state taxpayers. Xstrata was suspected of closing the mine to push up the languishing price of vanadium, a charge it denied. Critics of Xstrata pointed to the expansion of one of its South African vanadium mines at the same time as it mothballed Windimurra, and its refusal to reopen the mine as vanadium prices doubled, then doubled again.
It would not sell the mine as a going concern, preferring, instead, to take it to pieces. Xstrata said the mine was unviable and irreparably flawed.
No one is really sure what to think about Windimurra now (except, perhaps, that it might be cursed) because it became something of an exhibit during the state's Corruption and Crime Commission hearings.
It emerged that a minority shareholder in Windimurra, Precious Metals Australia, had engaged Brian Burke to secretly lobby for changes to a government report on the mine closure. The tabled report attacked Xstrata and was used by PMA to obtain a $17.5 million settlement from the Swiss miner.
When the report was tabled, the Labor MLA John Bowler, who was on the report committee, attacked the "sinister" actions of Xstrata, and accused the company of closing the mine to manipulate the world price of vanadium. Bowler quit Parliament this year after his close ties to Burke were uncovered by the commission. PMA, having won full ownership of the mine, now plans to rebuild Windimurra, and denies the corrupted report aided PMA in obtaining its settlement from Xstrata. Xstrata has threatened to sue.