Nfld. & Labrador

Vale extends care and maintenance period at Voisey's Bay to July

The Voisey's Bay mine was put into a care and maintenance period in March, limiting staff to essential workers only, but that period has now been extended until July.

200 essential workers maintaining mine

The Voisey's Bay mine will only allow up to 200 workers on site who are considered essential workers. (Vale)

It's been a month since work at Vale's Voisey's Bay mine in northern Labrador was slowed down, but it could be several months more before operations begin to get back to normal.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, operations were ramped down in March to protect workers.

The mine was put in a care and maintenance period limiting staff to essential workers only, but now that period has been extended until July.

The mine went from 900 workers last month to only about 200.

Heavy equipment operators, catering services, and operators are among the couple hundred workers at the site making sure it's maintained.

Pay to continue

The employees who are not working on site are still getting paid but wages might be lower than what they're used to.

Matthew Pike, Aboriginal affairs superintendent with Voisey's Bay, says the Canadian emergency wage subsidy is being used to help pay employees.

"For the next four weeks, [for] employees of Vale and those of our contractors, we'll provide 90 per cent of base wages, the next four weeks after that 80 per cent base wages and four weeks after that 70 per cent of base wages," Pike said.

Despite the lower wages, Pike said, most employees are understanding, but many just want things to go back to normal.

"People want to get back to work, people want some kind of normalcy in their lives, but understanding that we're not in the position to do that right now. Certainly a reduction of wages is not something anybody wants to do, but it's where we find ourselves in right now," he said.

'No guarantee'

Normalcy might not come until the summer, but with things changing so rapidly, Pike said, a lot is up in the air.

"Every day we're re-evaluating that. We're confident we'll have a lot more information before July 1, but there's no guarantee with all of this," he said.

"As everybody knows you look at where we were a month ago in terms of COVID-19, and July 1 in the grand scheme of things is far out there."

Pike said Vale will hold off on any construction or work until things are able to safely resume.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning