Lay offs from the Huckleberry Mine effects Burns Lake

“We need to remain optimistic,” says Wet’suwet’en Chief.

It’s been two weeks since Imperial Metals Corporation, which holds 50 per cent interest in Huckleberry Mines Ltd., announced pit operations at the Huckleberry Mine were suspended.

Out of the 100 employees affected, four workers were members of Wet’suwet’en First Nation (WFN).

“We need to remain positive and optimistic in bleak times,” said WFN Chief Karen Ogen.

Chief Ogen said WFN is now working with the Prince George Nechako Aboriginal employment and training association to find training programs for the workers that were laid off.

“The economy looks bleak right now, but we want to find ways and means to get our people in training programs that will provide meaningful employment,” said Chief Ogen.

“First Nations need to be a piece of the puzzle in keeping our economy going and being active participants in the workforce,” she added. “We need to continue to be solution focused and ensure we have our community’s best interests at heart.”

Huckleberry Mine has been dealing with declining copper prices for the last few years.

Giovanni Gallipoli, Associate Professor at the University of British Columbia, explained that commodity prices have been falling due to a general slowdown in aggregate demand around the world, and notably in China.

“Simply put, the world economy is not growing as fast as it was, at least as compared to the period before 2008,” he said. “Prices are set internationally, so changes in the demand of large consumers such as China, the U.S., or Western Europe are immediately reflected in the price paid to producers.”

During an open house and presentation at the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce on Nov. 26, 2015, Kyler Hardy, President of Equitas Resources Corp., said the mining industry is “very much a boom and bust cycle industry” – with periods of extreme wealth creation and periods of extreme wealth destruction.

However, Gallipoli says the current slowdown has some features that may be called “structural” rather than purely “cyclical.” He explained that China is transiting from being an emerging economy to the stage of a more mature economy.

“This transition is always painful and is usually accompanied by a sharp drop in growth rates,” said Gallipoli. “The U.S. economy might pick up some of the slack in world growth, but this may take a year or two.”

According to Huckleberry spokesperson and Imperial Metals vice president of corporate affairs Steve Robertson, there is no estimate on the timing for resumption of pit operations at the Huckleberry Mine.

The mine has retained the balance of its workforce to continue milling stockpiled ore. Those laid off are being put on a call back list for rehiring on basis of seniority when copper prices improve.