New Brunswick

Potash mine closure greeted with dread in Sussex

News of the closure of the Sussex-area's biggest employer was being greeted with dread by people in downtown Sussex on Tuesday.

Indefinite shutdown of Picadilly mine by PotashCorp will cost area 430 jobs

Gordon Cummings says Sussex will be hurt by the loss of 430 good-paying jobs in close proximity to the town. (CBC)

News of the closure of the Sussex-area's biggest employer was being greeted with dread by people in downtown Sussex on Tuesday.

"There's nothing left now," said Renee Oxford.

Liz Guptill says the closure of the Picadilly mine near Sussex is going to "hurt this town pretty bad." (CBC)
"It's going to be bad for Sussex," said Gordon Cummings.

"It's going to hurt this town pretty hard," said Liz Guptill. 'It's going to be rough."

Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan announced Tuesday it will suspend operations indefinitely at its new Picadilly mine.

430 jobs lost

The closure puts up to 430 people out of work, the company said.

About 100 employees will remain on the payroll for a four-month transition period.

A core crew of 35 people will handle care and maintenance of the mothballed facility for as long as the mine is closed.

The Sussex area is home to the second largest potash deposit in the world, and three potash mines in the area — including the Cassidy Lake mine that is now closed — made the industry the biggest employer in what was historically a dairy town.

"It's the only thing Sussex has got going for them now, the mines," said Cummings. "Sussex used to be farming country, but there's only a few big farms now.

'Good money. Handy work.'

"It's going to be hard," he said. "Good money. Handy work. Big money."

Gerry Rogers thought Picadilly would be the last mine PotashCorp would close. (CBC)
"It's really something that certainly we do not need," said retiree Wayne Vail. "Many of our industries of the past are kind of gone, and [the town is] quite dependent on something as substantial as the potash industry."

Retiree Gerry Rogers said Tuesday's closure wasn't surprising given the year-long freefall in the price of potash on the world market.

"Sometimes those things are just waiting to happen," said Rogers.

However, Rogers said the news was a surprise given that PotashCorp has spent close to $2 billion to get the Picadilly mine operational since announcing plans to open it in 2008.

"I felt this would be the last one to go," said Rogers.

PCS Potash president Mark Fracchia said he doesn't see the Picadilly mine reopening in the near future. (CBC)
At a news conference in Fredericton Tuesday, PCS Potash president Mark Fracchia said the Sussex mine was more costly to run than the company's Saskatchewan operations because of the unique geology in the Sussex area.

Rogers did express hope the Penobsiquis mine will reopen.

"They're going to need fertilizer," said Rogers. "The world doesn't grow without fertilizer. It's just a question of the relative supply and demand."

The company said it will cost $20 million to maintain the mine in the first year of a shutdown and $15 million in subsequent years.

Should the company decide to reopen the mine, it would take about a year to get it operational.

Fracchia said he did not foresee the mine reopening in the "near future."

'Devastating news'

Alaina Lockhart, MP for the riding of Fundy Royal, issued a statement saying she was notified Tuesday that the mining operations would be suspended indefinitely. 

"This is devastating news for the greater Sussex community and my thoughts are with the employees and their families at this time," she said in the statement.

Lockhart said representatives of the company "have committed to establishing a $5 million community investment fund which will include streams to help employees with jobs transition assistance, including training and educational support, supporting local businesses, as well as charitable organizations." 

Lockhart also said she plans to address the situation with Jim Carr, minister of natural resources.


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