Editorial: Uncertainty lingers as Vale switches Thompson bosses again

The removal of Gary Eyres as head of Vale’s Manitoba Operations and his replacement with Franco Cazzola, who formerly worked in Thompson for a few years from 2005 to 2008, indicates that things are still in flux at the Thompson mining and milling operation.

As a result, the uncertainty that first took hold of Thompson nearly a decade ago when the Brazilian mining company that purchased Inco in 2006 announced that it was shutting down the smelter and refinery still lingers, even after the axe has fallen.

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In the lead up to the closure of the smelter and the refinery in mid-2018, people didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, the loss of a few hundred good paying jobs was going to have a trickle-down effect and it has, as several businesses have closed up shop over the past few years, though sometimes it is because their owners couldn’t find buyers or family members to take over the operations from them. It’s become difficult to sell a house. The city government has less money in lieu of property taxes from vale.

Any hopes that the uncertainty would dissipate once the Manitoba Operations downsized seems to have evaporated, however, given that Vale has now had four different people in charge of its operations in Thompson since former Manitoba Operations head Mark Scott was let go right around the time that the smelter and refinery closed up. Two of those bosses – Eyres and his predecessor Alistair Ross – have made bullish remarks about the future of nickel to the Thompson Chamber of Commerce, but actions speak louder than words and the only substantial action Vale has taken lately is to fire one boss and replace him with another.

It may be a positive development that Cazzola is someone who is familiar with Thompson, but the unfortunate reality is that the people who really make the decisions about what happens to Vale’s Manitoba Operations in the future aren’t just outside city limits or even in Sudbury, Ont. or Toronto. They aren’t in Canada at all and it often seems that the people they employ here and the city that was built in conjunction with the mines and their ancillary operations are nothing more than numbers on a balance sheet to the people with actual authority, who don’t seem to think that there’s anything wrong with keeping all their employees and the people whose businesses they support mostly in the dark when it comes to their long-term vision regarding where Manitoba Operations are headed.

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