Light at the end of the tunnel: Rebuilding in the wake of the Piccadilly Mine closure

By Tammy Schuster

PotashCorp’s New Brunswick potash operation. Photo courtesy of PotashCorp.

PotashCorp’s New Brunswick potash operation. Photo courtesy of PotashCorp.

Since the sudden closure of the Piccadilly Mine in Sussex, NB, last January, many workers have since transferred to other company operations, relocated, or accepted positions with other mines. But in the aftermath of the mine closure, the province has been working hard to create new opportunities for all of those living in the Town of Sussex.

In January 2016, Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan closed their Picadilly mine operation and cut 430 jobs. While industry experts say it was a difficult decision for the company, it was a necessary move since the decline of the potash industry in recent years.

Picadilly, a $2.2-billion project which only recently completed, was expected to have a 73-year lifespan. Now, only about 35 employees remain to handle care and maintenance of the closed facility. PotashCorp says it will cost $20 million to maintain the mine in the first year of the shutdown and $15 million in subsequent years.

The loss of up to 430 well-paid jobs — averaging $80,000 and $120,000 annually —  from Sussex’s biggest employer in a community of 4,300 was bound to impact the local economy.

Joel Richardson, vice-president of the New Brunswick and P.E.I. divisions of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, says the closure would result in future job loss in the restaurants, retail, and other businesses that support the potash mine in Sussex if it were to remained closed.

Should the company decide to reopen the mine, it would take about a year to become operational, but Mark Fracchia, president, PCS Potash, says he doesn’t foresee that happening anytime in the near future.

PotashCorp offered jobs to a number of workers willing to relocate to Saskatchewan, while others accepted positions at K+S Potash Canada operations in Saskatchewan. “In the first quarter of 2016, K+S hired around 10 former employees from the Picadilly mine with significant potash experience and they have been valuable contributors to our team,” says Maeghan Dubois, senior communications specialist, K+S.

March 15, 2016, Opportunities New Brunswick announcement at Alantra Leasing in Sussex. From left: Marcus deWinter, Stephen Lund, Marc Poirier, Brian Gallant, Blair Hyslop, Rosalyn Hyslop, Alaina Lockhart, Marc Thorne. This image is copyright Jamie Roach (roachj@nb.sympatico.ca; www.jamieroach.net)

March 15, 2016, Opportunities New Brunswick announcement at Alantra Leasing in Sussex.
From left: Marcus deWinter, Stephen Lund, Marc Poirier, Brian Gallant, Blair Hyslop, Rosalyn Hyslop, Alaina Lockhart, Marc Thorne.
This image is copyright Jamie Roach (roachj@nb.sympatico.ca; www.jamieroach.net)

But much work has been put into recovery for the town of Sussex. Earlier this year, Opportunities NB announced investment at three Sussex-based businesses that will create 39 local jobs.

“Businesses in the Sussex region continue to pull together to support one another and the community in the wake of the mine closure,” says Stephen Lund, CEO of Opportunities NB.
“Many businesses who were already in growth mode in the Greater Sussex Region have hired displaced employees and Opportunities NB is continuing to work with affected businesses to develop new markets and improve their productivity.”

Opportunities NB is a government corporation that works to attract and support opportunities that will grow the economy and create jobs in the province of New Brunswick.

“Through continued one-on-one business counselling and working in collaboration with government partners, we are seeing new leaders emerge in the region and businesses develop plans to diversify and grow. We will continue to work with our clients and the business community at large to support the economic success of the region.”

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