Natural Resources Minister Derrick Dally was very clear: as far as he’s concerned, the story isn’t over for Wabush Mines.
“It’s an idle, it’s not a closure,” he said. “Their intentions are to try to sell the mine.”
On Tuesday evening, Cliff Resources announced that they would be idling the Wabush iron ore mine.
Reached for comment Wednesday morning, Dalley said he didn’t want to say too much, because he’s planning on heading up to Labrador west and he wants to speak with mine workers before he does much talking in the media.
“To be fair to the people of Wabush, particularly the steelworkers union and the town, we’re going in there tomorrow to have conversations with them around a number of issues, and I’d prefer to have that with them before you write it out today,” he said. “Talk to me tomorrow after I’ve had a chance to meet with everybody.”
Dalley said the government has known that the mine is in trouble for quite a while, and they got word from the company back around Jan. 28th that the situation was dire.
“We had a sense that things weren’t going to go well for the mine,” he said.
But the final decision to idle the mine, putting hundreds of workers out of a job, didn’t come until Tuesday.
The priority for the government right now, Dalley said, is helping the workers.
He said that this isn’t the first time the government has had to deal with an industry town losing its primary industry, and they’ll be moving in to support the workers where possible.
He said the first step is to talk to workers, the union, and the town to find out what they need.
“Our entire focus is going to be on the people of Wabush and the situation that we’re in,” he said. “We as a government will do all we can, but also, ensuring that the workers are treated fairly in this process.”
Dalley said he clearly expects proper severance to be paid, and other contractual issues like pensions.
The other priority, Dalley said, is helping Cliff Resources find a buyer for the mine.