An antimony mine in Central Newfoundland that's encountered a series of ups and downs in recent years is once again halting operations, with the operator blaming lower production and increased costs for the decision.
The mine had employed more than 100 employees up to last fall, and had an annual payroll of $10 million, but by next Friday, the workforce will be reduced to less than a dozen, site manger Shane Osmond told CBC News.
Some 40-plus workers were let go in late November.
Operations will be suspended indefinitely while the mineral resource and the mine's long-term feasibility is assessed, said Osmond.
The mine is operated by a company called Beaver Brook Antimony Mine Inc., which is owned by a Chinese state-owned nonferrous metals company called China Minmetals.
The company had hoped to operate throughout the winter, but in a statement, said that was not possible because of soaring operating costs related to fuel and other goods and services, the difficulty of operating during the winter months, and an unexpected decline in production. The company said operations were also affected by supply chain challenges related to the global pandemic.
The mine is located 43 kilometres southwest of Glenwood, and resumed production 18 months ago after a series of starts and stops.
A small crew of workers will protect and maintain the site, and some exploration is planned for this winter and spring to determine whether there is sufficient resources to resume operations. But the company is not ruling out permanent closure.
"The exceptional team at [Beaver Brook] has always been our greatest resource, and we thank each of them, past and present, for their contributions to our mine. We have taken reasonable measures to lessen the impact of this difficult decision on our team," the company wrote in a news release.
Antimony is considered a strategic metal and is commonly used in flame-retardants, and combined with other metals to make lead-acid batteries, low-friction metals and cable sheathing. Antimony is also used in the manufacturing of paints, ceramic enamels, glass and pottery.
China is a dominant global player in the global antimony market.