Wabush Mines 'done us very, very dirty,' widow says

The widow of a former Wabush Mines worker and her son say their finances have been dramatically impacted by the company's closure, and pensioners in the area are left to fend for themselves.

Widow and her son say the mine closure left little opportunities

The widow of a former Wabush Mines worker says her finances have been dramatically impacted by the company's closure. 2:26

The widow of a former Wabush Mines worker and her son say their finances have been dramatically impacted by the company's closure, and pensioners in the area are left to fend for themselves. 

Theresa Norris and her husband, David, first moved to Wabush back in 1973.

"Everything was such a beautiful place to live and we got such a beautiful town," Norris told CBC News. 

Her husband retired in 2003, after working at the mines for 30 years.

Prior to her husband's death in June 2010, Norris said the pair received $2,100 a month as part of his pension plan. 

Theresa Norris and her husband first moved to Wabush back in 1973. She says it's a beautiful place to live — but pensioners have been left to fend for themselves. (CBC)

Norris said she didn't receive any payment during the month of her husband's death. Two months later, in August, she said she was mailed a cheque for $540. 

"That's all I was receiving, then I got another letter in the mail saying they were cutting my drugs." 

Last June more than 900 retirees lost their medical coverageNorris, who spends about $200 a month on prescription medication, can no longer draw from the couple's medical plan. 

Theresa Norris' late husband, David, shown receiving a plaque for his 25 years of service working at Wabush mines. (CBC)

Norris now lives in a home that one of her sons has provided for her. Through the Canada Pension Plan, she said she lives off of about $1,800 dollars a month.

"They're taking everything away from us. Wabush Mines has done us very, very dirty," she said.

"And I just don't agree with that because we thought everything was such that everything was going to be alright for us, for me, for this part of my life."

U.S-based Cliffs Natural Resources, the company that operates the mine, is currently in creditor protection. Last year, the premier asked the company to honour its obligation to pensioners.

The superintendent of pensions also told workers to expect a 20 to 25 per cent drop in their pensions. 
"With the government taking taxes out of my pay, my husband's pension [is] a little over $300 a month," Norris said.

"It's not easy, you learn to live."

'They ... told us we were finished'

Bill Norris, Theresa's son, was laid off when the mine shut down. He'd worked there for 10 years.

"They basically came in and told us we were finished. We're no longer employed," he told CBC News.
The view of Wabush mines, as seen from the town. (CBC)

Bill Norris said he found another job but was later laid off from that position as well. Finding steady work has been a struggle. 

He said he's been applying for work with the Muskrat Falls project ever since it began. 

"They won't call me back, even for an interview," he said. 

Like his mother, Bill Norris said he feels mistreated by the company. 

"People lost out, I lost a lot of things when the mines closed. There's a lot of money they didn't give us back. There's just so much that the people lost. And they don't seem to care about the people."

Theresa Norris' son, Bill, says finding steady work in the town has been a struggle. (CBC)

Bill Norris said he's fortunate that he's young and can still find work for himself, but other pensioners aren't so lucky. He said those are the people that most need taking care of.

"That's the number one priority," he said.

But there is some hope. 

Labrador West MHA Graham Letto has said there is a potential buyer for Wabush Mines.

The Iron Ore Company of Canada has delayed, but not quashed, plans for Wabush 3 — an expansion that the president of the company said is critical for its future. 

Bill Norris hopes to see these ideas come to pass. 

"I'd like to see Wabush Mines or a new place — something — developed there for the town, for the people." he said. 

"The town definitely needs it."