Sask. Mining Association warns about negative impacts of west coast work stoppage

Image from the Port of Vancouver Facebook page.

Representatives from the Saskatchewan Mining Association (SMA) say the work stoppage at Canada’s West Coast ports will have a negative impact on the potash industry.

The SMA issued a media release on Tuesday calling on the federal government to take all possible steps to ensure the port disruption is resolved as soon as possible.

SMA Vice-President of Environment, Safety, and Regulatory Affairs Brad Sigurdson said roughly 95 per cent of Canada’s potash exports flow through the Port of Vancouver. Missing those shipments, he said, is a grave concern for the industry.

“We know from past port and rail service disruptions that even a few days of stopped or delayed services takes the system weeks to recover, with a cost in the billions of dollars,” Sigurdson said in a press release.

Sigurdson said potash companies Nutrien, Mosaic, and K+S Potash all rely on the Port of Vancouver to move their product. He said missed shipments won’t just affect those companies, it will make it harder for other sectors, like agriculture, to get their products to market too.

Saskatchewan is the world’s largest producer of potash, providing roughly 37 per cent of the world’s supply. The industry employs more than 5,800 people, with a sales volume of more than $18 billion in 2022.

“Mining is a major user of Canada’s ports and is the largest shipping sector by volume by both rail and marine,” reads the SMA statement. “Disruptions to Canada’s West Coast ports has damaging effects on the mining industry and is very harmful to Canada’s economy and reputation, directly affecting its integrated supply chain and Canadian and global customers.”

Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Canada began a strike at 8 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Canada Day. Negotiations with the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA) are paused pending further talks with federal mediators.

ILWU members are picketing various cargo and container handling sites, according to a Port of Vancouver operations update posted on July 4.

The Port has asked incoming vessels to slow down and adopt near-time arrivals to prevent congestion around terminals that are still in operation.

The Port of Vancouver is one of 30 ports affected by the strike action. The union has cited port automation and the rising cost of living as key issues at stake. Union members voted 99.24 per cent in favour of a strike action after their contract expired in March, and a cooling off period ended on June 21.