Mount Polley Mine lays off 120 workers

It is a difficult day at Mount Polley as 120 employees are learning they will be laid off, confirmed union president Paul French Tuesday.

It is a difficult day at Mount Polley as 120 employees are learning they will be laid off, confirmed United Steelworkers Union Local 4-125 president Paul French Tuesday.

“I do know Mount Polley is doing its tailgate meetings and talking to the affected crews and there are shift changes tomorrow as well,” French said, noting the layoffs will mostly impact equipment operators and truck drivers.

The layoff of 120 people equals more than half of the unionized employees at the mine, he added.

“We knew this day was coming,” French said. “That’s why we’ve been pushing so hard to try and be positive on the temporary restart permit and have the mine do what it needed to do to have it submitted and everything done correctly,”

Imperial Metals vice-president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson said Tuesday evening the layoffs represent half the workforce that was employed at the beginning of the week.

“We have finished the construction of the cut-off wall and have resized the workforce to reflect that,” Robertson said. “Crews continue to work on the restoration of Hazeltine Creek and we continue to work hard to complete our permitting in order to get our dedicated workers back to their jobs in an operating environment at the earliest possible time.”

Describing the layoffs as “tremendous”, French said the union will do everything it can to get people back to work.

“We have to put pressure on the government that if the application for restart is there not to wait,” he said. “Any restart has to be done properly and cannot be forced through if it isn’t correct, but we are hopeful what Mount Polley has proposed will work.”

French said the union fears the permit may not be accepted, or if it is, startup could be as late as the middle of July.

“We are quite nervous,” French said. “Is this just a temporary blip and the guys will get called back or is there going to be something wrong with that temporary permit?”

As for the layoffs, French said it doesn’t matter how prepared people are, it’s always a shock.

During a telephone conference with the Cariboo Regional District on April 24,  the Ministry of Mines said it hopes to make a decision on the temporary permit by mid-June.