Alberta coal mine to suspend operations Christmas Eve — 220 people to lose jobs

People in a remote, small town in northwestern Alberta are in shock after learning the Grande Cache Coal underground mine is to shut down on Christmas Eve.

GRANDE CACHE — People in a remote, small town in northwestern Alberta are in shock after learning the Grande Cache Coal underground mine is to shut down on Christmas Eve.

More than 220 people are to lose their jobs at a time when the community is already trying to deal with about 250 layoffs at the company’s strip mine and coal-cleaning plant earlier this year.

“It is devastating for us and we are still in shock as we figure out how this is going to play out,” Grande Cache Mayor Herb Castle said Tuesday.

“It translates to paycheques to workers to families to homeowners to the grocery stores to the gas stations. Everyone is going to be affected here in some way.”

Grande Cache Coal cited deteriorating market conditions for its decision to “temporarily suspend” operations on Dec. 24, but noted it does not have a timeline for when production might resume.

The company was taken over in September by Up Energy Development Group Ltd. after it purchased a controlling interest last fall for just $2 from Marubeni of Japan and Winsway Coking Coal Holdings Ltd.

The two firms had paid $1 billion for the mine in 2012 when coal prices were booming.

The metallurgical coal mine is one of the few major businesses in the area. Once the layoffs take effect, the town’s largest employer will be the Grande Cache Institution, a federal medium-security prison.

Grande Cache Coal said it is considering building a new mine in the region sometime in the future.

“Our technical team will continue to work on developing mining plans and preparing applications for new mining permits and licences,” the company said in an emailed statement. “We will prepare GCC for bigger future operations when the market returns.”

Gary Taje, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America Local 2009, said workers have been told the layoffs are indefinite.

He said the company told the union that work on a new mine could perhaps begin in about six months, but he said his members can’t pay a mortgage or feed a family on speculation.

“My members are basically all unemployed now,” Taje said.

“People are leaving, looking for greener pastures. They will not be able to sit in Grande Cache and wait.”

There are no job prospects for coal miners in Western Canada right now, he said, and some of his members are considering applying for jobs at a new coal mine that is to open next year in the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia.

Castle said the community will do what it can to hang on during the economic downturn. He noted the Grande Cache area has other employers, including a forestry mill and oil and natural gas companies.

“This just may be a blip and we are hoping that coal prices will recover. We are hoping that this company will get some traction and go forward.

“This is very much out of our control.”

Just Posted

Man from Olds killed in collision near Sundre

A 39-year-old man from Olds was killed in a collision near Sundre… Continue reading

Tips to keep crime at bay this Christmas

’Tis the season for joy and celebration, but the Christmas season can… Continue reading

Olympic ski run designer creates upgrades at Canyon Ski Resort

Jeff Ihaksi says free-style and alpine ski venues are Canada Winter Games-worthy

Updated: Collision expert backs version of crash of driver accused of manslaughter

Daniel Newsham accused of manslaughter in fatal 2016 collision

WATCH: More than 100 protest UN migration pact, carbon tax in Red Deer

Chants of “Trudeau must go” echoed through the streets of downtown Red… Continue reading

Tkachuk’s goal in 3rd gives Flames 2-1 win over Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Matthew Tkachuk scored the go-ahead goal midway through… Continue reading

Women use scent to lure wolf-dog that ran away from Calgary airport

EDMONTON — A woman from Alberta is thanking an unconventional strategy for… Continue reading

Suspect in Alberta, Saskatchewan bank robberies to get mental assessment

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — A former Winnipeg broadcaster and journalism instructor accused… Continue reading

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau says his government hopes to make legal changes… Continue reading

No winning ticket for Friday night’s $60 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — There was no winning ticket for the $60 million jackpot… Continue reading

All evacuation orders lifted in deadly California wildfire

PARADISE, Calif. — All evacuation orders have been lifted in Paradise more… Continue reading

All aflutter about our feathered friends

Christmas Bird Count will be held Dec. 23

Baylor ties pervade rape case that sparked uproar

DALLAS — The Texas judge who approved a plea deal allowing a… Continue reading

Most Read