Mosaic laying off more than 300 workers at Colonsay potash mine

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WATCH ABOVE: Mosaic says the Colonsay layoffs are in response to a challenging growing season – Aug 6, 2019

The Mosaic Company plans to indefinitely shut down its Colonsay, Sask., potash facility, which will result in well over 300 workers being laid off.

In an emailed statement, the company stated the decision is due to “a challenging North American planting season.” The goal of the idling, according to Mosaic, is to lower its potash inventory.

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“We’ve experienced a North American spring season that was wetter and later than any in recorded history,” Mosaic president and CEO Joc O’Rourke said in a news release.

Nearly 400 hourly unionized workers received temporary layoff notices Tuesday morning.

However, the facility’s idling is expected to impact just over 340 people, as a small crew will keep the site on standby should market conditions improve.

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The changes take effect after Sept. 9.

Salaried employees will either continue working at the site or be deployed to other projects, said Sarah Fedorchuk, Mosaic’s vice-president of government relations and public affairs.

“We really think that this is a short-term, seasonal issue and that [in] 2020, things will resume and go back to normal,” Fedorchuk said.

Reopening the Colonsay mine will “completely depend on how the market is looking,” Fedorchuk said.

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While Mosaic describes the shutdown as “temporary,” United Steelworkers staff representative Darrin Kruger called the layoffs “devastating.”

“There is no recall date, so temporary is uncertain at this time,” Kruger said.

Potash mines sometimes undergo seasonal maintenance shutdowns and inventory correction periods.

“Those generally have a specified start and end date for a specified duration, whereas this one doesn’t,” Kruger said.

“It came out of the blue. Guys weren’t aware of it.”

An effort to accelerate production at the lower-cost Esterhazy K3 potash project remains on schedule, and contributed to the idling of the Colonsay potash mine, according to the company.

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Mosaic reported a net loss of $233 million for the second quarter of 2019.

Colonsay is about 55 kilometres southeast of Saskatoon.