This map shows potash reserves in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as well as existing mines in Saskatchewan. (GRANT HAMILTON/BRANDON SUN)
Layoffs at Potash Corp. in Saskatchewan will have little impact in Westman because of where the company chose to cut employees.
Potash Corp. announced Tuesday it is cutting its workforce by approximately 18 percent, affecting close to 1,050 employees.
While the biggest gash will come in the Saskatchewan-based company’s home province, there will be little impact in Westman because Potash Corp. Rocanville, where the majority of Manitoba employees work, has been spared the chopping block.
"We’re pleased to note that it doesn’t affect the Rocanville mine, which is where all of our folks work," Birtle Mayor Dwight Stewart said.
He estimates between 15 to 20 residents make the 35-minute drive across the border to work at the mine.
The layoffs will affect 440 positions in Saskatchewan. The majority of cuts will be at the Lanigan mine, where one of two mills will suspend production, and the Cory mine, where production will be scaled back.
Stewart believes the Rocanville mine’s expansion, which is nearing completion, played a role in keeping the facility running as usual.
The mine is currently undergoing a $2.8-billion expansion that will increase its production from three tonnes of ore to 5.7 tonnes per year.
It’s also had a far-reaching impact in the area.
Approximately 25 per cent of the mine’s workforce is made up of Manitobans from communities such as Russell, McAuley and Foxwarren.
However, it’s St. Lazare, which is located just 15 minutes away, that has benefited the most from the mine.
CAO for the Village of St. Lazare and RM of Ellice Rick Fouillard said about 35 people within the two municipalities work at the mine.
"A lot of those guys have been working there for a long time and now we have some young people that have started on and it has a big impact here," Fouillard said. "We might be a ghost town without it."
Many of those same workers have experienced slowdowns in the past related to market price fluxation and demand.
Fouillard said the work done to modernize and increase efficiencies at the mine should bode well moving forward.
"If they spent all of that money (on the expansion), they must be looking long-range in Rocanville," he said.
Potash Corp. cited competitiveness, flexibility and a softening of the price of potash, which is used globally in many fertilizers, for the cuts.
"This is a difficult day for our employees and our company," president Bill Doyle said in a release. "While these are steps we must take to run a sustainable business and protect the long-term interests of all our stakeholders, these decisions are never easy. We understand the impact is not only on our people, but also in the communities where we work and live, and Potash Corp will work hard to help those affected through this challenging time."
Outside Saskatchewan, 130 workers were affected in New Brunswick, while the remaining 475 job reductions are in the United States and Trinidad.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 6, 2013