Sifto Salt laying off 80 people at its salt mine in Goderich, Ont ...

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My Cat Knows Better My Cat Knows Better's picture
Sifto Salt laying off 80 people at its salt mine in Goderich, Ont ...

Sifto Salt in Goderich announced that it is laying off 80 workers, for an indeterminate time frame. On the face of it this is a simple labour relations issue. Underlying the layoff announcement are the company's stated reasons. There is an excessive quantity of salt in storage that is due to an excessively warm, dry winter to date. So these guys continued to produce until they worked themselves out of a job. Some of the questions I have are:

Who made the descision to continue operations on a seven day per week basis even though the markets had "dried" up? As a union guy, I know whose doorstep I would lay it on.

Is there a rationale for the continued unfettered use of road salt that not only damages automobiles but also, more importantly, the environment. Is this another case for the use of mass transit vs. the individual automobile?

Finally, these workers are clearly the victims of climate change. Although this is a small economic cost in the grand scheme of things, there are still victims. It seems to me that as the debate rages on over those who believe the science and those who deny, there will be no big cataclysmic event that galvanizes everyone into action. The reality of climate change will sneak up on us and one morning we will wake up an realize that the world has been dangerously changed while we slept.




It seems to me that last year municipalities went begging for salt, and the mine couldn't keep up.    Maybe they reacted to that by building too much inventory?  

It would be interesting to hear from someone who knows more history about the mine production habits over the last few decades.   Maybe layoffs are not unusual, but because of the economy the news media decided to pick up on it, or maybe it fills some other media agenda.


I've been against salt use on roads for a number of reasons.    First, the spring thaw salt plume that travels down our creeks and rivers is very disruptive to the environment.   The salt spray from roads kills nearby trees, particularly evergreens.   It also contaminates ground water.  Salt also damages and shortens the life spans of bridges and other infrastructure, and I've also heard that it's bad for people with high blood pressure to expose themselves to salt mist that permeates the roadways on days of certain conditions.  


It could be that last year's shortage encouraged municipalilties to take a second look at their salt use, and found other ways to deal with icy roads and sidewalks, thus reducing demand.    I note today that with the cold temps, London sanded instead of salted, and they put down a light brine solution on bridges ahead of bad weather, as a rule the past couple of years,  reducing the over all need for salt.  Perhaps others have adopted this strategy.  


There are less intrusive alternatives to salt, but they "cost more".  However, I think if a true accounting of the cost of salt was done, the alternatives might prove to be cheaper, over all.


Uninterestingly enough, the salt mined at Goderich, and further south near Windsor, Ontario, is part of the Silurian Salina formation.  As you know from the Silurian reference, the deposit is about 400 million years old.   Meaning, if you had a dollar for every year, you'd only be able to not quite pay HALF the consultants at E-Health Ontario.  That's how old that is.   The formation also denotes the deeper parts of the Michigan Basin.  From Toronto, you'll drive through the barrier reef of Silurian times, and further west, you'll pass over some of the pinacle reefs from that age.   The salt accumulated when the Michigan Basin became land locked, and started to evaporate under the hot tropical sun, which thanks to plate tectonics (say "thank you plate tectonics")  we don't have to endure in this day and age.   



Bookish Agrarian

My guess from driving on roads after a couple of days of snow squalls that the decision in the snow belt was to just do nothing.  The roads, including main arteries are an icy mess with no sand or salt put on them.  If that is the general idea, just do nothing, it seems quite reasonable that an unexpected glut could occur.



Well, at certain temperatures and wind conditions, salting doesn't work.  It's been durned windy and cold way down south in London, I can imagine it's a bit more so up in Burrruce County. 

No wind tonight.  I was walking down near Colbourne street, listening to my feet crunch the snow on the sidewalk.   We curse winter sometimes, but geez, a walk like that makes life worth living.

My Cat Knows Better My Cat Knows Better's picture

Back before the climate began to warm up, I worked in the northern Yukon. The roads were never salted. No only for cost reasons, but because when it is cold, salt just makes the roads more slippery. Now I realize that in areas like southern Ontario, it isn't always cold enough to forego the salt. Given the traffic levels caused by commuters, its easier to justify the application of salt. That doesn't mitigate the environmental impact of the stuff.  

In regard to the excessive stockpiles, I imagine that management sought out some sort of long range weather forecasting service, such as Environment Canada or the Farmer's Almanac in order to calculate degree/days and precipitation. The issue is that our winters are milder than thirty odd years ago and are growing warmer all of the time. Climate change is the elephant in the room and our culture is using salt to give the illusion that we are always driving in ideal conditions so we drive more and exacerbate the situation.


As far as long range forecasting goes, predicting weather in the Great Lakes region where most of the salt is used is fairly tricky three days ahead in the winter, let alone four or five months.  

And even if we all walked or took the bus, the busses still need traction, as do para transit vehicles, service and emergency vehicles.   Way down south here in Canada's Dixie, even in a "cold" winter we go through a lot of freeze/thaw cycles, and the temperature averages right about where snow melts under the pressure of feet or vehicle tires, only to refreeze and create hardpack seconds later.   Last night, it was about -12 or -15, and the roads were snow covered, but not that slippery.   Raise the temperature to about -5, and that same surface gets pretty slick.