Falling nickel prices forced Vale to close mine, company says
A nickel mine in Thompson, Man. will be closing this fall, a representative with the United Steelworkers confirmed Tuesday. The closure of the Birchtree mine will put between 150 and 200 people out of work, USW 6166 president Les Ellsworth said.
“I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear this week that we would actually be closing the mine,” he said. “It came as a shock.” Ellsworth expected the mine to be open until at least 2020 but falling nickel prices forced mine owner Vale’s hand, he said.
Ryan Land, manager of corporate affairs for Vale in Thompson, said the company has been in a “prolonged down cycle” for some time. He added the mine was approaching the end of its life cycle as well. “We happen to be in a business where we are price takers, not price makers,” he said, referring to nickel prices.
“Until we start to see the up cycle, I think these challenges will continue to be out there.” Ellsworth hopes most of the affected workers will be able to find jobs in other Thompson-area Vale operations. Otherwise, they face layoffs.
On top of the 150 workers at the mine, another 50 people who do indirect work for the mine will be affected by the closure, Ellsworth said. The bulk of the jobs are high-paying positions with benefits, he added. “Once you take those jobs out of the community it has a great effect,” said Ellsworth.
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