First Nickel Inc.'s Lockerby Mine in Sudbury will see several rounds of layoffs in the coming months, says the union representing the workers.
Anne-Marie MacInnis, the president of Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor, said the company sent out layoff notices to around 26 workers last week, and is expected to reduce its workforce more in the next few months.
“They're going to be on care and maintenance in November,” MacInnis said.
Under care and maintenance, the company would only need a skeleton crew to maintain infrastructure at the mine site.
MacInnis said the company has agreed, as per the collective agreement, to set up a re-adjustment centre for employees who have received layoff notices. The centre would give them resources to find new jobs.
“They said they would provide a couple computers to allow people to do job searches,” she said.
In early January, the mid-tier miner restructured its operations at the nickel-copper mine, and cut 75 per cent of its contractors and 30 per cent of its permanent workforce – from 164 jobs to 115.
Company president and CEO Thomas Boehlert has said low nickel prices have forced First Nickel to halt development.
“The workforce has done a fantastic job and the management team has been very dedicated, but at some point you can't argue with gravity,” Boehlert said.
When the company first conceived developing the mine nickel prices were in the US$9 per pound range, but more recently the price dropped below $6.
“It's really squeezing our cash-generating capability and our ability to continue to invest in development,” Boehlert said.
First Nickel will mine out the remaining economic ore on and above the 6,800-foot level in the third quarter of this year – which runs from July to September, then decide whether to put Lockerby on care and maintenance or close it down.
In an email to Northern Ontario Business on July 7, Boehlert said no final decision has been made, as to whether or not the mine will shut down permanently.
“We are continuing to evaluate the options,” he said.
The last two years have been challenging for Lockerby Mine.
On May 6, 2014, the two workers from Taurus Drilling Services – Marc Methé, 34, and Norm Bisaillon, 49 – were killed by a fall of ground in the mine.
The Ministry of Labour later laid eight charges against First Nickel, and five charges against Taurus Drilling Services for their deaths.
A corporation can be required to pay a fine of up to $500,000 per charge for contraventions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.