PotashCorp's Sussex mine shutdown sends shockwaves around province

The shutdown of the PotashCorp's Picadilly mine is sending shock waves across the province. Among the first to feel it is the Port of Saint John, which had been anticipating its potash business would soon increase.

'We were completely shocked, nobody saw this coming,' says Pat Riley, a union official

PotashCorp closed the nearby Picadilly mine operation in January, at the cost of 430 jobs. (CBC)

The shutdown of the PotashCorp's Picadilly mine is sending shock waves across the province, with the Port of Saint John among the first to feel the effect of the closure. 

At an open house in April 2015, the port laid out plans for a new access road and rail sidings at the Potash terminal, potentially more than doubling the number of ships calling to 130 from 60.

The plans came to a halt with Tuesday's announcement. In future, the only potash coming to Saint John will be from Saskatchewan.

Jim Quinn, chief executive officer of the Port says, the volume of shipments will be one-third less than expected.

Pat Riley, business agent for Local 273, the union representing Saint John Longshoremen, says no one saw the shutdown coming. (CBC)
Pat Riley, the business agent for Local 273, the union representing Saint John Longshoremen, says they were "completely shocked."

"Nobody saw this coming," he says.

Riley says 15 of his members work full time at the potash terminal and more are added when a potash ship is loading.

He says he is still waiting to hear what the reduced business will mean for his members.

"Nobody we know knew that this mine was going to have to suspend its operations for not months, but a year at least, and in all likelihood, years," said Riley.

'Such a blow'

Gerry Lowe, a Saint John councillor, says the mine shutdown is a blow. (CBC)
Saint John Coun. Gerry Lowe says he was looking forward to the terminal expansion.

It would move trucks away from south-end homes, while generating tens of millions of dollars in construction work.

Now there will be no construction and no trucks. 

"It's such a blow," Lowe said. 

In the spring of 2015 the mine manager in Sussex talked of keeping the old Penobsquis mine operating for another six years alongside the new Picadilly mine, producing extra port traffic for Saint John.  

In October, that plan was dropped and 140 workers at the old mine were sent home. As it turned out, the brand new Picadilly mine was next in line.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.