Nova Scotia

Little Narrows Gypsum likely to close as company winds down plant

There are fears Little Narrows Gypsum located about 30 kilometres from Baddeck, N.S., will close permanently after its parent company said it has decided to "idle operations" at the plant.

Thirteen workers laid off earlier this month; eight employees remain to tie up loose ends

The gypsum mine at Little Narrows, N.S., is expected to close permanently due to lack of demand for natural gypsum. Cheaper synthetic gypsum has taken over the market. (Yvonne LeBlanc-Smith/CBC)

After more than 80 years in the community, there are fears Little Narrows Gypsum located about 30 kilometres from Baddeck, N.S., will close permanently after its parent company said it has decided to "idle operations" at the plant.

"As the demand for natural rock has changed over the past few years, Little Narrows has been operating on a limited basis with reduced staffing," Kathleen Prause, a communications manager for United States Gypsum Corporation, said in an email.

She declined CBC's request for an interview.

In early October USGC issued 13 layoff notices to the gypsum plant's staff, keeping eight employees on the job for reclamation work and security purposes.

'Blow to workers'

"It's a blow to the workers; also the community," said the municipal councillor for the area, Paul MacNeil, who senses that the business will not reopen.

"The writing's been on the wall for a few years now," he told CBC's Information Morning, adding that wallboard plants are carrying mostly synthetic gypsum these days instead of the more expensive natural product.

The plant in Victoria County has been mining and shipping raw product to markets in Canada and the United States since 1935.

MacNeil remembers a time when the Little Narrows gypsum operation employed — himself included — about 150 people.

"It's been winding down for the last 10 to 15 years," he said. Staff numbers had dwindled to about 40 the last couple of summers, he said.

Bleak future

The councillor said the future looks bleak considering the age of the plant and the lack of a market for natural gypsum.

MacNeil said it's his impression, from speaking with workers, that the idling down of the facility will result in its permanent closure.

Workers losing their jobs will have limited options, he said, noting work wasn't available out West the way it used to be.

He said the company has made arrangement for workers to register for retraining programs through agencies such as Employment Nova Scotia.

"It's going to be difficult for people to find jobs," said MacNeil, who notes the plant's closure also means a loss of business for local vendors that supplied materials to Little Narrows Gypsum.

MacNeil said he doesn't know what will happen to the property currently occupied by the United States Gypsum Corporation.

That will be decided by Victoria County council in conjunction with the company, he said.

With files from Information Morning