Nutrien extends layoffs at Vanscoy, Sask. potash mine

Nutrien says about 265 workers at its Vanscoy potash mine in Saskatchewan won’t be heading back to work until at least the end of January.

In September, the Saskatoon-based fertilizer company announced eight-week shutdowns of three of its mines in the province, which were to start in November.

Spokesman Will Tigley says workers are to return to the Allan and Lanigan mines on December 29th.

He said the company will be able to meet near-term potash demand with those two mines.

In May, the company announced there would be 80 permanent layoffs at the Vanscoy mine as it slowed down production. Nutrien said it made the move to cut costs while the potash market rebounded.

At that time, the Vanscoy mine was expected to reduce production from 2.2 million tonnes to 1.7 million tonnes. At the same time, Nutrien said it planned to raise production at its lower-cost mines in the province.

Previously, 80 employees were also permanently laid off at Vanscoy in August, 2018.

When the layoffs were announced, the union representing workers said it was concerned for the members that were being laid off over the holiday season.

Nutrien’s statement explained if all three of the potash facilities were to remain idled for the full eight weeks, potash production could be reduced by 700,000 tonnes.

It also estimated that annual earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization could potentially be reduced by US $100-$150 million if the sites remained idle.

This fall, financial analysts applauded Nutrien as it reported second-quarter net income from continuing operations of $858 million or $1.47 per share on $8.66 billion of sales, versus $741 million or $1.17 on $8.1 billion in sales a year earlier.

The company also announced a two-week temporary shutdown at its Rocanville potash mine this month. The company said it was making the decision due to shipment issues caused by the CN rail strike.

Layoffs in Saskatchewan potash mines are not limited to Nutrien, however. In August, about 350 workers were laid off when Mosaic indefinitely shut down its Colonsay potash mine, affecting 395 employees. The company said the shutdown would be in effect until prices improve.


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