Huckleberry Mine workers

The approximately 200 workers that had been kept on to mill stockpiled ore lost their jobs on Aug. 31, 2016.

The approximately 200 workers that had been kept on to mill stockpiled ore lost their jobs on Aug. 31, 2016.

Black Press asked the provincial government what they have been doing to support affected mine workers in the region.

John Rustad, Nechako Lakes MLA, said the province has been working with other companies such as the Brucejack Gold Mine Project to create opportunities for workers in the region.

The Brucejack Mine, located approximately 65 km north of Stewart, expects to employ at least 300 full-time workers in the near future.

“There’s certainly opportunity for some transition [at Brucejack],” said Rustad. “That’s going to be a great project for years to come.”

Rustad also mentioned a B.C. Hydro program announced earlier this year to allow companies operating metal and coal mines to temporarily defer a portion of their B.C. Hydro’s electricity payments.

“Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to help Huckleberry, but it is in place for other mines,” said Rustad.

“It is sad news that the [Huckleberry] mine is closing down; there will be opportunity in the future for that mine to reopen, but with copper prices being where they are and the market where it is at, it’s a very challenging time,” he added.

Shirley Bond, B.C. Minister of Jobs, said in a statement that her ministry has undertaken a number of initiatives to provide supports for the community.

She said that since Huckleberry’s suspension announcement in January, her ministry has organized and held eight worker transition calls – with representatives from government, the District of Houston, the Town of Smithers, local WorkBC offices and local colleges.

She said subsequent information sessions were held on July 19-20, 2016 to deliver presentations as well as individual planning sessions for workers. All workers that received layoff notices attended the sessions.

WorkBC has also been engaging with impacted workers from Houston and providing workshops on how to prepare for, find and maintain employment.

“The ministry will continue to facilitate worker transition discussions, coordinate impacted worker transition services and work with the communities and service organizations to determine when and where supports will be most effective,” added Bond.