Workers 'not prepared' for temporary layoffs at Vale's Coleman Mine

More than 400 Sudbury production and maintenance workers are trying to figure out what to do next after they were temporarily laid off from Vale's Coleman Mine.

480 miners to be off work into December as company fixes safety problem

More than 400 workers at Vale's Coleman Mine in Levack, Ont., are temporarily layed off until well into December, as repairs are made to the shaft's ventilation system. (Yvon Theriault/CBC)

Hundreds of Sudbury mine workers are still reeling from the news that they're out of work —  temporarily.

They've been laid-off from Vale's Coleman Mine in Levack, while the company makes repairs.

The mine was shut down Nov. 10, with Vale citing safety concerns over a ventilation compartment in the shaft that goes underground.

This week, the company announced that repair work would take longer than initially expected.

More than 480 workers will be laid-off into December.

Production miner Billy Ostrowalker said he's still in shock days after getting the news. 

"The guys I talk to, everybody was feeling pretty hopeless," he said.  

Ostrowalker said he and his family of six will now make some difficult decisions as the holiday season approaches.

"I got to decide, do they need that $100 remote control car, or do they need $100 worth of food?"

Billy Ostrowalker, a production miner at Coleman Mine, says his family will have to make some difficult decisions, especially as the holiday season approaches. (Supplied)

Snowball effect?

Ostrowalker said he predicts the sting of the lost income will be felt throughout the community.

"That's 400 families that won't be spending as much money on food for big Christmas dinners... That's 400 families that won't be buying as many Christmas gifts." 

Production miner Al Sauve said he was also taken by surprise by the layoff notice.

He's concerned about his finances during this time because he is a single-income household.

"Money is going to be tight. A lot of young workers haven't had a chance to build up a nest egg."

Sauve said he's also disappointed that it seems the safety problem with the shaft existed at the mine, and yet Vale didn't do anything until now.

"People are concerned because they brought their families there, in this shaft for tours and whatnot. A lot of the guys... we're worried about trust," Sauve says.

"I'm hoping that the union will keep after [Vale] to make sure they're doing everything they can."

Al Sauve says he's disappointed that there might have been an ongoing safety issue at Coleman Mine. (Roger Corriveau/CBC)

Shut downs normally planned in advance

Laurentian University Labour Studies professor John Peters said these kinds of maintenance closures are usually planned in advance.

"The shut-down would take place over the holidays, and then people could take vacation, or they could use their banked overtime days, or they could get other kinds of routine maintenance jobs."

Given current health and safety legislation, as well as regular maintenance and monitoring within mines, Peters said it's rare for a major problem to be unexpected. 

"So the question arises, at least from an outsider's perspective, whether or not Vale was doing its due diligence and was responsible. Certainly it looks like it could have perhaps done more, and at least from an outsider's perspective now, it looks like it should be doing more now, as well," Peters said. 

The laid off workers can apply for employment insurance over the short term. Others have said they will look for temporary employment — or will relocate for jobs elsewhere.

With files from Robin De Angelis