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DARWIN, Feb 7 AAP

February 07 2013, 1:50PM

Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills says global energy companies are interested in working with his government as D-Day approaches for an outback town.

Mr Mills is in Europe preparing to speak with Rio Tinto managing director Sam Walsh ahead of a decision by the mining giant on whether it will keep open its Gove alumina refinery.

He has also been seeking help from other companies to exploit gas fields in the Timor Sea to shore up the NT's domestic supply.

In a statement from London on Thursday, Mr Mills said he wanted Australia to focus on a more secure domestic gas supply and connect pipelines to build a national gas grid.

"Companies including Eni, GDF Suez, Santos, and Inpex have also expressed in recent talks their interest to work with the Northern Territory Government to ensure this development can occur in the future," Mr Mills said.

He said discussions about securing a long-term gas supply have been held with Rio Tinto and its subsidiary that runs the Gove refinery, Pacific Aluminium.

"While a decision by Rio Tinto on the future of the refinery is imminent, I remain committed to securing gas for Gove while at the same time protecting the broader interests of Territorians," Mr Mills said.

The refinery has been making a loss of about $US30 million ($A29.20 million) each month and an internal review indicated it should be temporarily closed down, which could economically devastate the town of Nhulunbuy.

About 3500 people live in town, 1200 of which are employed at the refinery and another 16,000 indigenous people in nearby communities use services the town provides.

In efforts to convince Rio to keep operating the plant Mr Mills has sought help in getting gas to Gove, which would drive down the refinery's costs.

But allocating enough gas to Gove to run the refinery could eventually spell shortages for elsewhere in the NT.

By Xavier La Canna