PotashCorp to cut staff at U.S. phosphate plant

Saskatoon’s PotashCorp plans to cut about 15 per cent of the workforce at its phosphate mine and fertilizer and feed supplement plant in North Carolina through "voluntary separations" and layoffs.

"As a company, we never take these decisions lightly," Steve Beckel, general manager of the company’s plant at Aurora, about 70 km southeast of Greenville, said in a release Monday.

"However, remaining competitive for the long term is in the best interests of both our community and our company."

The planned cuts of about 150 full-time positions were among changes identified in a review "to lower operating costs while maintaining the operational capability of the facility," PotashCorp said.

"These changes are necessary to maintain the facility’s long term competitiveness in a global marketplace."

The plant’s employees will first be offered a "voluntary separation package," the company said, and if "target reductions" aren’t reached, "involuntary separations" would follow, effective June 30.

The Aurora facility, one of seven phosphate plants PotashCorp runs in the U.S., includes an open-pit mine with an annual production capacity of about six million tonnes of phosphate rock.

The plant’s annual processing capacity includes 1.2 million tonnes of phosphoric acid; 160,000 tonnes of phosphate feed for livestock supplements; and 333,000 tonnes of purified phosphoric acid, used in food and beverage products and metal treatment compounds.

PotashCorp is the world’s third biggest phosphate company by capacity. Its Aurora mine has an estimated 33 years of phosphate rock reserves at current production levels.

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