Rocky road ahead
Civic leaders fear more layoffs in mining sector

by Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

NNSL (Nov 21/97) - Yellowknife MLAs and Mayor Dave Lovell fear Giant Mine owner Royal Oak Mines Inc., could lay off more staff.

Royal Oak vice-president Graham Eacott said Wednesday that 26 people will be laid off. The company employs 320 people at Giant.

Among the 26 are 17 unionized hourly-paid employees, two non-union staff and seven from the mine's exploration department, Eacott said.

By percentage, the number of Yellowknifers employed in mining has declined over the years but "mining remains key to our economy," Lovell said.

He estimated about nine per cent of the city's labor force is now employed in mining compared with 15 per cent in 1981 and 56 per cent in 1951.

"Mining is still key. Yellowknife is built on mining," he said. "This drives home the need to diversify."

Behind the layoffs -- Canadian Auto Workers Local 2304 president Rick Cassidy told Yellowknifer Tuesday that 27 people would be affected -- is the weak gold price.

Gold continues to hover around $305 US after dipping below $300 last Friday. The metal is trading at its lowest level in over a decade.

"My first thoughts are for the employees and their families," Yellowknife South MLA Seamus Henry said.

"Getting laid off at any time is traumatic but it can be especially traumatic before Christmas. I hope it's not a sign of things to come."

United Steelworkers of America local 802 president Cliff Moroz said there has been no word of a similar move at Miramar Con Mine Ltd.

Local 802 is currently trying to negotiate a collective agreement. The last agreement expired at the end of April, with the mine.

"Every job is important," Frame Lake MLA Charles Dent said.

"The big concern is the price of gold. Is this just the start (of larger layoffs) if we don't see gold prices improve?" he said.

According to the city's draft budget book, Royal Oak employed 320 people as of Sept. 30, 1997. Con Mine employs 339.

Miramar is the city's largest taxpayer with a 1997 bill of just over $1 million, which represents 5.7 per cent of the city's total tax income.

Bellanca Developments Ltd. is second with a tax bill of about $780,469. A close third is Royal Oak with $780,317.