"The City of Thompson has been actively engaged in dialogue with major stakeholders since Vale issued a community-wide update on the direction of Manitoba Operations" Oct. 18, Mayor Tim Johnston said in a press released issued mid afternoon Friday – eight days after the Vale announcement.
"Of primary concern to mayor and council is Vale's consideration to move Birchtree Mine into 'care and maintenance' beginning in August 2013, plans to defer spending by postponing the 1-D project and the resulting uncertainty created for employees and all residents of Thompson by these decisions," the mayor said.
"The City of Thompson is concerned with this further announcement, by Vale regarding Manitoba Operations, following the November, 2010 announcement. We are in active discussion with Vale, the USW as well as [provincial cabinet ministers Steve] Ashton and [Dave] Chomiak at this time," said Johnston. "As a city we remain committed to working collaboratively with Vale, the USW and the Province of Manitoba."
Since the announcement, Johnston said he has spoken with both Vale and the USW in order to determine the impact of such decisions on the community.
Johnston and members of council met with Vale representatives Oct. 26 "and will continue to update the community about progress," he said.
"Simultaneously, the City of Thompson will continue to move forward with the Thompson Economic Diversification Working Group (TEDWG) initiatives and will urge Vale to maintain a commitment to the economic diversification projects through the implementation phases," Johnston said.
Vale has spent close to $2.5 million to date on the 18-month TEDWG process, most of it in monies paid to Toronto consultants rePlan.
Current funding agreements for both Thompson Unlimited, the city's economic development agency, also funded to a tune of $2.5 million over the last 10 years by Vale, and the grant-in-lieu of taxes Vale pays to the City of Thompson, School District of Mystery Lake and Local Government District (LDG) of Mystery Lake pursuant to the 1956 founding agreement, with the payment section renegotiated from time to time, both expire Dec. 31. Vale committed to provide payment of $6 million per year for 2011 and 2012.
In both cases, new deals have been largely hammered out, which are likely to be made public sometime near the end of the November – about a month before the current deals expire.
On the economic development front, an analyst on behalf of rePlan has prepared a report for TEDWG, circulated Oct 25, on "Retooling Thompson Unlimited." When the new deal becomes public look for a clearer "mandate" direction for Thompson Unlimited, or a successor organization, and for Vale to kick in funding again – for one more time – but not this time to the tune of $2.5 million and not for a term as long as 10 years.
As well, Vale Canada CEO Peter Poppinga and provincial NDP Minister of Innovation, Energy and Mines Dave Chomiak, Thompson MLA and Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Steve Ashton, Johnston, and Local 6166 USW president Murray Nychyporuk, are set to meet in Chomiak's office in Winnipeg Nov. 2 to discuss the future of Manitoba Operations in light of the company's Oct. 18 announcement on Birchtree Mine.
Ashton said Oct. 22 the province had "significant concerns about Vale's commitment to the Thompson mining operations" and added the province would be seeking a meeting on an "urgent basis" with Poppinga to discuss issues relating to Thompson.