New Brunswick

Remaining staff to be terminated as receivership approved for Caribou mine

A British Columbia judge approved an order Monday to place Trevali Mining (New Brunswick) Ltd. in receivership later this month, resulting in the termination of the remaining Caribou mine employees.

New Brunswick government plans to use contractor to secure, maintain mine site

Various metal and concrete structures shown in the distance with snow in the foreground.
The Caribou mine site southwest of Bathurst. (François Lejeune/Radio-Canada)

A British Columbia judge approved an order Monday to place Trevali Mining (New Brunswick) Ltd. in receivership later this month, resulting in the termination of remaining Caribou mine employees.

Supreme Court Justice Shelley Fitzpatrick granted the order after a hearing in Vancouver on Monday. The company will be placed in receivership at 11:59 p.m. PT on Jan. 24.

Receivership allows secured creditors to recover what they're owed when a company defaults on its payments.

The mine, about 50 kilometres southwest of Bathurst, produced zinc, lead and silver until its parent company, Trevali Mining Corp., filed for creditor protection in August.

Mining was halted at Caribou, which was placed into a care-and-maintenance mode. 

Only five unionized employees remain at the mine site, a lawyer said Monday. (Trevali)

Court filings indicate Trevali had 121 workers and employed 165 contractors in August before 100 employees were laid off. 

Dawid Cieloszczyk, a lawyer representing mine workers in United Steelworkers Local 1306, told the judge on Monday there were five remaining unionized employees. It wasn't clear how many non-unionized workers remain. 

Cieloszczyk said all remaining staff would be laid off when the receivership process begins later this month.

Glencore Canada Corp., Trevali's largest shareholder, and Bank of Nova Scotia sought the receivership order. 

Court filings from last week show the New Brunswick government feared a "chaotic" bankruptcy or receivership taking place this week, leaving no one to secure the mine and its tailings ponds.

Jan. 3 affidavit says that without on-site security, there's a risk thieves could interrupt the power supply and halt treatment of acidic water at the mine. Filings noted a tailings pond is nearly full. 

Documents indicate the province is working with a contractor that could secure the site, take over its maintenance, and prepare a remediation plan for the mine. 

Heavy machinery shown in front of concrete and steel mine structures.
The Caribou mine site shown in 2017. (Michel Nogue/Radio-Canada)

But the documents say it's unclear when the contractor can deploy to the mine site.

The province asked Fitzpatrick to extend creditor protection by two weeks to give it time to get the contractor in place.

Fitzpatrick approved that in a second order on Monday. The order will see the province paying $198,000 US to rent the mine site equipment until mid-March.

"At which time, hopefully a clearer path forward will be in place between the parties," Fitzpatrick said.

Court filings indicate the time will allow the province to inspect the equipment, formulate an initial site reclamation plan, and negotiate purchase of the equipment that could be used for mine site cleanup.

Department won't comment

The Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development wouldn't answer questions about the province's environmental liability at the mine.

René Legacy, the Liberal MLA for Bathurst West-Beresford, said what's unfolding isn't a surprise given Trevali's financial issues last year.

"I do see it as a positive sign that the government wants to keep the mine dry and unflooded," Legacy said in an interview Monday.

"If there is a new operator that's going to come in, it would make it easier for them to to become productive as quickly as possible."

Last fall, as part of the creditor protection process, a buyer was sought for the mine. However, no interest had been shown by mid-October. 

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said he would like to know what the province might do to help employees losing their jobs. 

Coon was also concerned that the province said in a court filing it wasn't monitoring the mine site for environmental compliance recently. 

The documents filed last week show the province has instead relied on Trevali staff who remain on-site.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. He can be reached at shane.magee@cbc.ca.

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