Revett Minerals Inc. announced on Thursday that it has laid off approximately 100 workers at the Troy Mine. The copper and silver mine in Lincoln County has been closed since December because of a series of underground rock falls.
Crews have been working to reopen the mine for months and Revett had hoped to resume production by the end of June. However, President and CEO John Shanahan said additional rock fall and damage was discovered in the “A Drive” drift and it will now take at least two months to reopen another route to the ore body.
“We have kept our experienced and skilled crews busy in recent months with maintenance and capital projects. However, the realization that the recommencement of underground mining operations will not resume by the end of the second quarter as planned has forced us to take difficult cost reduction measures,” Shanahan said in a press release.
The news comes as Revett wraps up a tumultuous second quarter that saw the loss of more than $4 million this year and its stock dropping to its lowest levels in three years. On May 22, the company’s stock closed at $1.22 a share. Following the recent announcement, Revett’s stock closed at 94 cents, the lowest since November 2009.
The layoffs will likely have a stinging effect on Lincoln County, which already has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state at 14.3 percent. County Commissioner Tony Berget said Shanahan sent a note to the county about the layoffs. He also commended the company for keeping so many workers employed through the shutdown.
“It takes the wind right out of your sails,” Berget said. “The fact that they kept all (205) guys employed that long, right through May, is a testament to what a good company Revett is.”
Work underground first slowed down in November when freezing temperatures and rain led to rockslides and unstable ground conditions. All production ceased on Dec. 1 and, since then, workers have been slowly trying to reopen the mine. This month, crews had worked to stabilize the “A Drive” drift in hopes of gaining access to the Lower Quartzite Ore Body. However, workers found more rock falls and officials deemed A Drive useless.
“We’d hoped and believed that access through the A Drive was viable and everything we had seen up until this point said it would work,” said Revett spokesperson Monique Hayes.
Miners will now attempt to access the copper and silver ore via the longer “D Drive” and Hayes said it will take up to eight weeks to clear that draft. Once crews get to the ore, they can inspect and assess the Lower Quartzite Ore Body to ensure that mining can resume safely. The company is also evaluating alternative plans to gain access to other ore reserves at the mine if the “D Drive” can’t be opened.
Hayes said the earliest mining could resume is the fourth quarter of 2013.
“It was a difficult and hard decision that had to be made,” Hayes said. “As unfortunate and disappointing this situation is, we still believe there is a future at the Troy Mine.”
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