Road salt deal secures future of Sussex NB mine for 2 years, creates 16 jobs
Decommissioning of potash mine, which put more than 400 people out of work, will continue as planned
New Brunswick's Department of Transportation has reached a deal to buy road salt from Nutrien, which will keep the company's Sussex mine operating for at least another two years and create 16 new jobs, officials announced on Monday.
Production is supposed to start this spring and salt from the mine will be used on the province's highways and roads starting next fall.
The two-year deal is welcome news for the town that lost more than 400 jobs in 2016 when Nutrien, then-known as the Potash Corp. of Saskatchewan, announced it was indefinitely suspending its Picadilly mining operation.
"These are families that depend on these incomes," said Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne. "These are high-paying salaries, and of course there are spinoffs as well."
The average annual salary in New Brunswick for non-metallic mineral mining and quarrying is just over $80,000, according to government officials.
Decommissioning of Nutrien's potash operations is expected to continue as planned.
"It's nice to see some of that business coming back," said Natasha Moffat, who manages a hardware store.
"It was hard for us because we had a lot of stuff that we carried specifically for the mine. We still have that stock here." she said.
The new contract will be cost-neutral for the province, which has been bringing in road salt from Nova Scotia and Quebec for the past two years, said department spokesman Paul Bradley.
On average, the province purchases about 180,000 tonnes of road salt per year.
Bradley said he could not divulge the cost of the agreement, but did say the department budgeted $11 million for road salt last year.
"I am very proud that this fall, the salt applied to provincially managed roads will once again be sourced right here in New Brunswick," said Sussex-Fundy-St. Martins MLA Bruce Northrup.
"This agreement will put local companies first, grow our economy and support New Brunswick workers," he said.
Last November, Nutrien said it had permanently closed the mine but it still employs 34 people to maintain it and undertake decommissioning tasks.
They will get to keep their jobs for another two years and 16 more people will be hired to support the road salt supply agreement.
"Sixteen new jobs may not sound like a lot of jobs, but 16 high-paying jobs in rural New Brunswick can make a big, big difference in this region," said Northrup, speaking on behalf of Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Bill Oliver.
Other salt users including municipalities, schools, hospitals, and private operators of Route 1 and Route 2 may purchase salt through the government's contract.
Some residents expressed hope the contract might lead to other deals, such as exporting mined salt to other provinces or to the U.S.
Nutrien officials said no other contracts are currrently in the works.
With files from Gabrielle Fahmy