Editorial on Teck temporary shutdowns

For communities that rely heavily on the coal industry for their economy, this is not good news.

Last week, Teck announced that they will be implementing temporary shutdowns this summer. For communities that rely heavily on the coal industry for their economy, this is not good news. During Sparwood’s mining week celebration in early May, Port Metro Vancouver representative Jim Candles said that one in five Kootenay residents work in the mining industry. For 20 days those employees will be out of work.

Many feel that although the announcement is clearly not a good thing, the negative impacts of the temporary closures are outweighed by the devastating impacts of actual layoffs.

The shutdowns were implemented in response to changing coal market conditions.

For many, this news didn’t come as a shock, as discussions around the weakening of demand and oversupplying of coal, particularly in China, have been happening for several months.

This is a fact that Teck Coal Vice President, Operations, Coal, Robin Sheremeta highlighted while at the aforementioned mining week celebration. The Teck Vice President, however, assured guests that the Elk Valley would be able to recover from the recent changes to the industry. It seems like Teck has finally been forced to take action, temporarily shutting down six Canadian coal mines this summer and reducing their annual third quarter coal production by approximately 1.5 million tonnes or 25 per cent.

As a result of these closures, several concerns from the general public have been brought forward, including concerns over what the shutdowns will mean for employees wages.

According to Chris Stannell, senior communications specialist with Teck, affected employees will be able to utilize paid entitlements, including vacation. But what about those who have already used up their vacation time or have already booked off additional vacation time? Those employees will be forced to take unpaid leave during the shutdowns. Although 20 days may not seem like a long time, it could be devastating to some.

Another concern that was brought forward was that several media sources published articles about the shutdowns first thing on the morning of May 28. According to some locals, however, several Teck employees heard through the media releases prior to being informed by their employer. As the Elk Valley mining industry undergoes these temporary shutdowns, I can only hope that the community supports them through these difficult times.