June 29, 2017
For Immediate Release

Potential to Restart Wabush Mines Welcomed, But Will There Be Anything for Current Pensioners?

Keith Hutchings, Natural Resources Critic for the Official Opposition, said, “We look forward to the potential restart of operation at the Wabush Mines operation following the asset sale approved this week, but is anything being done for current pensioners who were not protected when the former owner sought bankruptcy protection?”

On Wednesday, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady applauded “another important milestone” as a Quebec court granted Tacora Resources Inc. approval under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to purchase the assets of Wabush Mines and assume the responsibility and associated financial risk for environmental rehabilitation. The Minister’s news release stated: “Assuring environmental accountability for the site remained the responsibility of the purchaser was a key aspect of the agreement for the provincial government as it safeguards taxpayers from being burdened with future environmental cleanup liabilities.”

“We understand that next steps include a feasibility study and work to raise capital. But no mention was made of any provision to assume any part of the liability for the pensions of the former workers of Wabush Mines who are now pensioners.‎ We know that certain creditors will benefit from the sale, and perhaps shareholders, but will any portion of the asset sale proceeds go to help current pensioners?” said Hutchings.

“We understand the provincial government may hold a bond of as much as $50 million for the site’s environmental liabilities. If the new owner has taken on certain environmental liabilities, what is the status of the bond? Has any of it been released? Was any consideration given to making provisions to cover the liabilities for current pensioners as part of the overall arrangements?” asked Hutchings.

“The company whose assets Tacora has purchased built considerable wealth through the efforts of their workers, many of whom retired and started collecting the company pensions to which they had contributed. When the company sought bankruptcy protection, their pensions were not protected. During the discussions on the sale of the assets, we know that the province intervened with respect to environmental liabilities. The province had standing in the Quebec court that made the decision on the asset sale. Did the province make any effort to have current pensioners included‎? Did the province inquire about this, or make any effort to have current pensioners covered? Will any party take on any part of the liability to finance these pensions? These pensioners are at a point in their lives when they cannot be expected to take on new careers to make ends meet. What will be done for them?” asked Hutchings.

In May 2016, the PC Opposition successfully proposed an amendment to a Liberal resolution regarding the federal Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act. The Liberals wanted the law amended to better protect pensioners in future bankruptcy proceedings. The PC amendment was to “urge the Parliament to give these changes retroactive effect so the pensioners of Wabush Mines may benefit from this action”. Even with the amendment, however, apparently nothing has been done to address the concerns of the current pensioners of Wabush Mines.

-30-

Media Contact:
Heather MacLean
Director of Operations and Communications, Office of the Official Opposition
(709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca