Mount Polley began handing out layoff notices to 36 of its employees on Remembrance Day, effectively reducing its workforce by 11 per cent.
The first layoff letters went out to crews as they arrived for their shifts Tuesday morning.
Remaining letters will be handed out throughout the day, Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson told the Tribune.
“We will have 294 full-time employees remaining on the job. No trades will be laid off in this round. They are mostly truck drivers. Nine of them are driller positions.”
Most of the layoffs will affect unionized employees who will be able to bump with seniority, he added.
Meanwhile, Robertson indicated for the first time to media that the company is hoping for an early restart.
The company has put a plan on the table for an early restart that won’t include the use of the tailings impoundment, he said.
“We originally didn’t think the restart using anything other than the tailings impoundment would be economic but we have some ideas that we’re trying to follow.”
The plans haven’t been fully formulated, but the company is working “really hard” to examine every option for a restart, he said.
“I don’t want to get into any specifics because there are still a lot of details to iron out. I think it’s fair to say we are very interested in pursuing a restart of operations that makes sense for everyone.”
The Ministry of Environment confirmed Wednesday that plans for long-term and short-term remediation at the mine have not been approved, and no date for release of those plans has been confirmed yet.
However, since the breach of the tailings storage facility on Aug. 4, the mine has redeployed most of its workforce to work on recovery and remediation efforts.
As the recovery phase is nearing completion, the mine is adjusting staffing levels to match the volume of work available, Robertson said.
“The decision to eliminate jobs is a very difficult one,” general manager Dale Reimer said. “We believe our employees are very talented and dedicated individuals and we thank them for their service, and look forward to getting them back to work as quickly as we can.”
At this point the company anticipates keeping everyone else on at the mine to continue with recovery and remediation and is continually shifting people around the site as required, Robertson said.
“A lot of people who were working on the upstream dike are now building roads around the site, continuing to work on the water management plan and building a rock wall across the south end of Polley Lake.”
The seeding of winter rye earlier in the fall to aid with sediment control and stabilization has proven successful, Robertson said.
There is some good seed growth and a lot of the seed germinated and seeds that didn’t germinate will be under the snow through the winter and be able to germinate in the spring.
Winter rye was an obvious choice because it is robust and grows quickly, he added.
Nature has also reclaimed areas, with wild raspberries and fireweed already establishing themselves.