New mine on time, on budget as Tacora prepares to restart iron ore production
Liberal leader, incumbent candidate get tour of former Scully mine
Labrador West has been injected with confidence, with iron ore extraction set to begin at the former Scully mine in June.
Heavy machinery could be seen clearing land at the site Thursday, as Liberal leader Dwight Ball and Graham Letto, who is seeking re-election in the district, toured the mine.
"Things were kind of not stable in all the mining industry in the area, and today we are in the brink of reproduction," said Letto.
The day after Graham Letto was sworn in as MHA for Labrador West, the pension plan was terminated. In 2014, an estimated 400 people working at the mine and concentrator in Wabush were notified by Cliffs Natural Resources that its operations would be shutting down.
Much of the mine and the equipment was left as is when Cliffs pulled out. This machine has never dug in the ground, but it soon will. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/nlpoli?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#nlpoli</a> <a href="https://t.co/Ecrs2crazB">pic.twitter.com/Ecrs2crazB</a>—@arianakelland
Tacora Mines, based in Minnesota, has taken over the mine and the equipment — some brand new — that was left behind.
Bob Gagne, vice president and general manager of Tacora Operations, said he expects the first train to ship out in June.
"We're in the process of starting up equipment in the plant. Making sure the equipment is ready to take feed on," Gagne said.
"We've got an active team in place, maintenance and operators going through piece by piece identifying deficiency and making repairs."
Retirees help with operation
Many former IOC and Scully mine workers returned to the newly named Tacora Mine to pass on their knowledge of the site.
Gagne said some of those former workers have joined what will be a workforce of 360 upon peak operation. In addition, 50 to 100 employees will be needed to carry out equipment repairs and supplies, he said.
"We were very fortunate to have access to some past retired ore workers, both from the Scully site and some from IOC as well," Gagne said.
"That's one of the tools that allowed us to execute in an efficient and fast manner."
Rita Pynn, who worked at Wabush Mines for 41 years, told the crowd at Letto’s headquarters that pensioners are getting letters in the mail saying they will now received between 92 and 93 per cent of their original pension which was cut in 2016. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbcnl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbcnl</a> <a href="https://t.co/Bi2Ka9MCJ1">pic.twitter.com/Bi2Ka9MCJ1</a>—@arianakelland
The closure of the Wabush mines in 2014, paired with a slump in iron ore prices, saw Labrador West sink into economic hardship.
"I've seen the cyclical up and down of the mining industry, it's been like it forever, but we feel this time that it's something that's more stable. It's not like the big boom and bust," said Letto, who himself worked in the mining industry for years.
As for Ball, having a project meet timelines is music to his ears.
"It feels great to see a project on time and on budget," he said.
Meanwhile, Wabush mine retirees will soon receive letters in the mail.
Local Wabush Mines pension committee member Rita Pynn said Wednesday that former workers will get approximately 93 per cent of their pensions starting May 1.