PotashCorp blows up service shaft at Penobsquis mine
Controlled demolition marks the end of the 1st phase of decommissioning the Penobsquis mine
With raining beating down, people watched from their cars as a major piece of a PotashCorp mine near Sussex was brought to the ground in a controlled demolition.
On Friday at 7 a.m., the service shaft towering over the company's original mine in Penobsquis was toppled.
The shaft once carried miners and materials in and out of the mine, and its destruction marks the end of the first phase of the decommissioning process.
Production at the Penobsquis mine officially ceased in 2015.
In January, the provincial Environment Department gave the company the green light for the continued flooding of the mine with salt brine, which has been leaking into it since 1998.
Several pieces were removed during the year, a company spokesperson said.
"We have been taking down other buildings, such as the mine warehouse, salt storage buildings, the conveyor infrastructure, the tailings shed," Randy Burton said in an email.
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Friday morning, several people pulled to the side of the road to watch the demolition of service shaft.
An air-horn sounded, followed by a flash at the base, and then a loud boom. The shaft fell back and now lies in a debris field of former buildings.
"It's inevitable when you start a mine that there's going to be a day when the mine's no longer," said Jim Andrew, who watched the demolition from his truck with his grandchildren. Two of their relatives used to work at the mine.
Closure of the newer Picadilly mine across the road, where operations halted in 2016, has been a major blow to the region.
"With the new mine across the street," he said, "it was very disappointing for the people of this area to see that it didn't work out."
When PotashCorp closed the Picadilly mine, it cut about 430 jobs. According to Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne, the company has maintained about 35 to 40 workers at the mine.
Chelsea Nightingale was sent to take photos of the demolition for her boyfriend and his father, who both worked at the mine, but narrowly missed it. She said her boyfriend's father worked there just after the mine was built and didn't want to witness its destruction.
"It was pretty emotional," said Nightingale, "so he wasn't coming." Her boyfriend found it a struggle to find work after the layoffs and bounced around from job-to-job.
"He's been back and forth between a lot of positions, a lot of labour jobs, and there's a lot of layoffs" she said. "It's definitely hard."
Ernest Otis, who retired from the mine after 28 years, agreed it was sad to watch it demolished.
"It affects everyone around here when it quit — stores and all that stuff," he said.
The company said it will continue to remove more buildings next year. In 2019, it plans to demolish the production shaft, which once brought up thousands of tonnes of potash.