Last muck, last hoist, last truck at Vale’s Birchtree Mine – by Ian Graham (Thompson Citizen – October 5, 2017)

The transition of Birchtree Mine to care and maintenance status, which began in the last few days of September and officially got underway Oct. 2, didn’t affect as many employees as previously estimated and no one will be laid off until the end of the year but the effects will still be felt.

The last day of mucking at Birchtree was Sept. 27 and the last hoist day was Sept. 30, when an event to commemorate the occasion was held for employees, their families and dignitaries such as Mayor Dennis Fenske, Thompson MLA Kelly Bindle, Vale Manitoba Operations vice-president Mark Scott and United Steelworkers Local 6166 president Les Ellsworth, said corporate affairs, organizational design and human resources manager Ryan Land.

The last day of September also saw the ceremonial last truck of ore roll out of the mine and the first care and maintenance shift was Oct. 2. About 60 employees will work on asset recovery until November and the mine will be on care and maintenance as of Dec. 31, after which will it will employ only six workers.

“Of the 200 roles affected by the placement of Birchtree Mine on care and maintenance, fewer than 70 layoff notices were issued based on seniority, and these have since been extended to Dec. 31,” said Land.

“We were able to significantly reduce the number through a retirement incentive initiative, ongoing work with USW 6166 to identify other opportunities, and by filling vacancies. The Birchtree employees are either retiring, are participating in the care and maintenance preparation, or have been assigned to other plants.”

USW Local 6166 president Les Ellsworth said 94 employees had taken a retirement incentive package overall and that others had left for other reasons.

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