Rise in road salt prices hits local contractors

Whether you use a single bag or several tonnes, road salt is likely to cost more this year, putting a pinch on local contractors.

Labour problems at Ontario salt mine ripple across North America

Road salt will be more expensive this year due to a strike at one mine, which has caused supply shortages. (Lisa Johnson/CBC)

Whether you use a single bag or several tonnes, road salt is likely to cost more this year, putting a pinch on local contractors.

A strike this summer at a major mine in Goderich, Ont., and other supply issues are driving up prices this year, and contractors say they're feeling ground down by the increase.

"The prices have skyrocketed this autumn and there is no sign of them going down. If anything they are going to keep climbing," said Kent Peddie, owner of Precision Snow Removal in Ottawa. 

The industry expected price hikes because of the supply problems, but they didn't see them rising this much, he said.

Big hike 

Prices have always fluctuated, but last year Peddie said he was paying between $90 and $110 for a tonne of salt, and now prices are between $140 and $160.

Unfortunately for his business, the contracts with his customers were mostly already signed, leaving him to cover the cost, he said.

"Once the contracts are signed, we are bound by them," he said. Peddie's company already tries to limit salt use for environmental reasons, but he said there is only so far they can go.

This season's early arrival of snow and ice is also driving up costs. Prices for snow clearing could rise next year if salt prices stay high, Peddie said.

Governments unaffected

The City of Ottawa, which uses 185,000 tonnes of salt a year on average, has a contract in place for salt and isn't expecting to have to deal with shortages or price hikes.

"Under this contract we will be supplied with a full complement of salt and have access to additional supply if needed," said Luc Gagne, the city's director of roads and parking services.

The City of Ottawa has a locked-in contract for road salt, which means it shouldn't face price hikes or shortages. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

In most cases, the provincial government has long-term contracts with clearing crews, which the province said allows those contractors to sign long-term deals to buy salt.

The ministry also has long-term contracts for the salt it buys directly.

"The ministry has confirmed that quantities of salt outlined in the ministry's contracts are secure and will be provided at the contracted price," said transportation ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols.