The mining sector in central Newfoundland took a big blow this week
This after the Beaver Brook antimony mine issued more 100 layoffs to employees. The mine is some 40 kilometres west of Glenwood.
The news of the layoffs came as a surprise to the provincial government and Andrew Parsons, minister of Industry, Energy and Technology.
“The biggest thing is that the value of the mineral has gone down by 25 per cent and no company can operate at a loss.”— Andrew Parsons
“We were only contacted quite recently by the company about the financial difficulty they were experiencing,” said Parsons. “Like everything in 2020, COVID-19 has hammered this particular industry as well.
“The biggest thing is that the value of the mineral has gone down by 25 per cent and no company can operate at a loss.”
Attempts to reach representatives with Beaver Brook Antimony Mine were unsuccessful.
It was only 2019 when it was announced the mine would be reopening.
On March 5 of that year, the provincial government and representatives of China Minmetals Rare Earth Group, the mine’s new backers, announced operations would re-start after being closed for almost a decade.
It was expected, at the time, this would mean 100 jobs for the region and that the mine would have a life span of three to four years.
Antimony is a grey metal and its uses include being a part of infrared detectors, medicine and cosmetics. At the time, it was announced that some 160,000 tonnes of the metal would be mined and processed annually.
Parsons noted that Beaver Brook has a history of starts and stops. He said it was the third time that this had happened as antimony is a mineral that fluctuates in value on international markets.
“It is difficult because they had started up again with high hopes and for reasons, I’m sure, out of the company's hands, they find themselves in this situation,” said Parsons.
“The government said a full two years ago they were going to overhaul the mining taxation regime and fee regime, but nothing has happened on that whatsoever." — opposition leader Ches Crosbie
Ches Crosbie, leader of the province’s Progressive Conservative party, laid the blame for the layoffs squarely at the feet of the provincial government.
“The government said a full two years ago they were going to overhaul the mining taxation regime and fee regime, but nothing has happened on that whatsoever,” he said. “The problem with this tidal wave of layoffs we’re experiencing is we have a Liberal government that is not on the ball and not on the job.”
Before the news of the layoffs, mining in central Newfoundland appeared to be hitting a boom period.
The price of gold was sky-high and there are several projects in the region hoping to capitalize on that price.
The hope is that with so much mining activity in the region, the people affected by the layoffs could find employment and remain in the area.
In the meantime, the provincial government expects to speak with the company behind Beaver Brook in the coming days with eyes on the future.
“We’re willing to listen to any ideas,” said Parsons. “That’s the nature of this industry... it's hard to come in and just hand over money at a time when the market is not responding.”
Nicholas Mercer is a local journalism initiative reporter covering central Newfoundland for SaltWire Network.