Organizations in southern New Brunswick that depended on donations from Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan say they're bracing for the impact of the indefinite shutdown of the Picadilly mine.
Lois King, the administrator of the Sussex Sharing Club, says PotashCorp has supported the food bank "tremendously" with corporate food drives and donations — including two cheques for $50,000 — since it opened the Picadilly mine two years ago.
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That allowed the non-profit group to pay off its 20-year mortgage in 17 months.
"They really want to help children in particular," said King.
"I notice they really care about the community they live in, and they're going to be greatly missed."
Alfie Smith, a Sussex Sharing Club board member, says the corporate support from PotashCorp put the group "on an even keel."
Smith says the money saved in mortgage costs went to expanding services.
"Now we have a program at the elementary schools, that money can now go to supporting hot lunch meals for each of those children, five days a week," said Smith.
"That is costing us in the area of $20,000 to $25,000 a year, so the money we used to put on the mortgage is able to be freed up to actually feed the children their hot meals."
Potential increase at food bank
King says the timing of the closure is concerning. The group was already preparing for an increase in clients with many young families moving back from Alberta.
"A lot of people are moving from out west because it's not working out for them … now the mine's going, it's not going to be good."
The Sussex Sharing Club helps 250 families in the area.
On Tuesday, PotashCorp said it would establish a $5-million fund to:
- Help employees with job transition assistance, including skills training and education support.
- Provide financial support to local business.
- Support local charities.
Alaina Lockhart, the Liberal MP for the riding of Fundy Royal, said she spoke to a PotashCorp representative on Tuesday about the community fund.
"They've been very generous to the town and surrounding areas," Lockhart said.
"When I said that, there was a quick reaction to say, 'We're not disappearing.'"
Lockhart met with Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr on Tuesday, and was planning to meet with Government House Leader Dominic LeBlanc on Wednesday, to talk about how the town could be assisted on a federal level.
She says it's important to focus on the workers' career transition.
"The training and support we could provide through the EI system, that's certainly not a long-term plan and i think it's really important to look at those relationships we are forging with all three levels of government," Lockhart said.
"We're going to need to work together on this and look for opportunities as we have been doing, but this brings an acute focus in this area to look for opportunities for people."