K+S Potash Canada is holding a job fair in Sussex, hoping to lure some of the region's newly laid-off potash workers to their new Saskatchewan operation.
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Maryann Deutscher, a senior human resources manager for K+S, says the company decided to set up the job fair the moment it heard about the closure of the Picadilly mine.
"Our goal is to look for people that have potash processing experience ... both from the skilled trades and the operators," she said.
With Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan's decision to indefinitely suspend its Picadilly mine operation, 430 high-paying jobs in this community of 4,300 are gone.
Deutscher says K+S, which is based in Germany, is looking for 120 workers — from industrial mechanics, electricians and other skilled trades to panel and field operators — for a new operation set to begin later this year.
Not all of those positions will be filled by New Brunswickers, but she says she's excited by the quality of the local workforce.
"In talking with people today, I am very impressed with their sense of teamwork and initiative ... it's very positive," said Deutscher.
Willing to relocate
At Friday's job fair dozens of people lined up, resumes in hand, hoping to get one of those positions, even if it means relocating to Saskatchewan.
Kris Kyle, who grew up in Sussex and has worked in the mine for a number for years, says if he has to leave the province for work, he will.
"It's not the greatest but at this point I got a young family and you've got to do what you've got to do," he said.
Kyle says emotions have been running high in Sussex since PotashCorp made the grim announcement, with people moving from anger to despair, "but you've got to stay optimistic in times like these and not let the worst emotions get the best of you," he said.
Rachel Hay, 27, was also in line, hoping for a position out west.
Hay says she was an underground operator and has worked in the mine since 2009. Still, she figures she is better off than some.
"I feel bad for a lot of the group that have nice houses and vehicles and families ... so now they're going to have to travel." she said.
Picadilly, a $2.2-billion project, which was just recently completed, was expected to have a 73-year lifespan.
But Mark Fracchia, the president of PCS Potash and a former general manager for the New Brunswick mine, said the plunge in potash prices on the world market and a drop in demand from China, combined with the challenging geology of the area, left the company with no alternative.
When asked about the long-term future of the K+S mine, Maryann Deutscher said the company is investing $4.1 billion in the project outside of Regina, "we're operating for generations to come."
The K+S job fair runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Gateway Mall in Sussex.