IOC cites low iron ore prices as it lays off 150 miners in Labrador City

LABRADOR CITY, N.L. – News that the Iron Ore Company of Canada is laying off 150 workers from its mine in Labrador City is the latest blow for a hard-hit region, says Mayor Karen Oldford.

“It’s very difficult times already with the closure of Wabush Mines and Bloom Lake, and the trickle-down effect in our industry,” she said Thursday in an interview.

The company says the layoffs are indefinite and take effect June 14.

“It’s going to mean more difficult times ahead for the families and those that are impacted, which will be the whole community,” Oldford said.

Housing prices have dropped and food bank use is up in Labrador West. Well paid jobs have evaporated since Cleveland-based Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. blamed high costs and nose-diving commodity values for shutdowns at Wabush Mines and its nearby Bloom Lake mine in Quebec.

About 2,000 people work at the IOC site in Labrador City.

The company in a statement Thursday cited the fall this week of iron ore prices to a low of $47.50 per tonne. It said that trend is expected to continue.

“Our operating costs need to go down even more to make us viable and IOC has taken steps to implement a number of changes as we strive to save as many jobs as possible.”

About 1,200 members of the local United Steelworkers union in February voted overwhelmingly against IOC’s request that they give up a four-per-cent wage increase.

The union said the company is making big profits despite slumping prices and could save cash by cutting contract workers.

Global mining giant Rio Tinto is IOC’s majority shareholder. Rio Tinto is among the biggest multinational players stepping up iron ore output, particularly from its Australian mines, increasing exports last year as supply gluts drove down prices and squeezed higher-cost producers.

Critics have called it a concerted effort by major producers to boost market share as iron ore prices fell by about 60 per cent over the last year. Slower growth in China and less demand for steel has added to the oversupply.