by Wendy Coomber
with Kamloops This Week
Slumping copper prices have led Teck’s Highland Valley Copper mine to announce it will cut its workforce by six per cent by the end of 2016.
“It has the possibility of impacting Ashcroft in a big way,” said Ashcroft Mayor Jack Jeyes. “Any kind of job loss is important to Ashcroft.”
Ashcroft receives an annual grant from Logan Lake based on its property assessments because of the mine, but Jeyes said the layoffs won’t affect that.
Cache Creek Mayor John Ranta noted that every time there is a job lost in the region, there is a trickle-down effect on the local economy.
“Job loss anywhere in the region has an impact,” he said. “In the interests of maintaining as many jobs as possible and still make a profit you sometimes have to suffer a reduction in your workforce. For those workers that remain, it’s a good thing. For those laid off we have significant sympathy for the hardships they are going through and hope they find employment soon.”
Peter Martell, superintendent of environment and community affairs at the mine, said nine management staff were laid off last Thursday, with more job cuts coming in the new year.
“We’ve had challenging market conditions that are continuing, so they are taking steps to reduce costs at Highland Valley Copper and maintain our competitiveness,” Martell said.
Kyle Wolff, president of the United Steelworkers Local 7619, said the challenge is that production costs have gone up as copper prices have fallen.
Copper prices fell to the lowest levels in more than a month last week. Copper for December delivery, the most actively traded contract, closed down 2.9 per cent to US$2.26 a pound on New York Mercantile Exchange. It was the lowest close for copper since Sept. 29.
The mine, located near Logan Lake, employs approximately 1,400 people, meaning some 80 jobs are being eliminated from that six per cent, something Teck hopes to do primarily through attrition — eliminating a position when the person in it retires.
“There’s always a significant number of people each year that retire,” Martell said.