Hard times for Grande Cache as mine layoffs take effect
More than 200 people will work their last shifts the day before Christmas
About 250 workers at the Grande Cache Coal underground mine will put in their last shifts today as layoff notices handed out in November come into effect.
"People are a little depressed, they're distressed to be laid off at this time of the year," said Gary Taje, president of the United Mine Workers of America Local 2009.
"We have a few people that are angry ... and some people have just resigned themselves to the fact it's time to move on."
When Grande Cache Coal announced the layoffs, president and CEO Max Wang issued a letter to employees, citing the need to reduce spending in light of "uncertainties of the continuously deteriorating global coal market."
It has been a difficult time for the whole town, said Coun. Yvonne Rempel, with retailers feeling the pinch.
"We're an industry-based town and we're feeling the crunch of the gas industry, oil industry and now the coal industry," she said.
Taje said the mine workers union is helping laid-off workers stay up-to-date with first aid and other certification that will help make them more employable.
"We've been told this is a layoff, whether it's a six-month layoff or a two-year layoff, the mine is not closing," Rempel said.
Taje and Rempel also hope Grande Cache Coal will be in a position to open a new underground mine in the next year.
Rempel said town officials are lobbying the provincial and federal governments on behalf of the company to make sure necessary permits are dealt with quickly and not hung up by red tape.
"Grande Cache has weathered this storm before and we're confident we can do it once again," Rempel said.
Grande Cache, 435 kilometres west of Edmonton, has a population of about 4,300.