Workers strike at Sifto’s Ontario salt mine
by Rebecca Reid
Union disputes with company over collective agreement.
OVERLAND PARK, KAN.—Workers at Sifto Canada Corp.’s Goderich, Ont., salt mine have gone on strike after negotiations for a new collective agreement broke down between the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union Local 16-O and Sifto’s parent company, Compass Minerals.
The union represents 380 employees at the mine.
“The company’s proposed three-year agreement includes higher wages and attractive benefits and addresses additional jobs associated with the company’s investment in new mining technology,” said Angelo Brisimitzakis, president and CEO of Compass Minerals. “When negotiations were suspended by the union, we were in agreement on all issues but one management-rights topic. We’re confident that we can work with union leadership to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement.”
The company says it has strong de-icing salt inventories following last year’s mild winter and will be able to produce sufficient rock salt to meet its non-seasonal customer’s needs.
“We look forward to resuming normal operations soon, and with our current strong inventory position we expect to have no difficulty serving our highway de-icing customers this season,” Brisimitzakis said.
Sifto produces for numerous markets, including de-icing, culinary and chemical, to name a few, and mines 900,000 tons of salt in Goderich each year. Compass Minerals also operates two other salt mines worldwide, one in Cote Blanche, La., in the U.S., and Winsford, Cheshire, in the U.K.
The Goderich site also produces sulphate of potash (SOP) using the mechanical evaporation process. Water is injected into an underground salt deposit to create saturated brine; the brine is drawn out and evaporated in large crystallizers—salt crystals grow as the water evaporates. Afterwards, the crystals are washed, filtered and dried. The Goderich site yields 175,000 tons of SOP per year.
Compass Minerals operates three other sites in Canada where it produces SOP using the mechanical evaporation production method; Amherst, N.S., Unity, Sask., and Wynyard, Sask.
The town of Goderich has been a salt producing powerhouse since 1866 when Sifto founder, Sam Platt, discovered a salt bed while prospecting for oil. Production began the same year though mining didn’t start until the 1950s, and the company has plans for expansion.
Earlier this month, Compass Minerals and Goderich entered into a port expansion agreement. The plan includes creation of new land at the port to provide additional space for port traffic and to give the Mississauga, Ont.-based Sifto additional storage options during the winter when the lake is closed. Sifto is expected to incur another $18.9 million in additional fees over the next five-years, which would provide it with a renewable 25-year lease on the new land.
“The port expansion would allow us to continue to produce rock salt when lake traffic can be limited because of ice, giving us more consistent production and employment levels throughout the year and enhancing our recent $70 million expansion,” said Rowland Howe, Canada country executive for Compass Minerals.
The project is expected to cost $47.2 million and will be financed in part by a $15.7 million infrastructure improvement grant from the province and funds from the Goderich Port Management Corporation.