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Potash giant Nutrien to briefly shut down three mines, lay off hundreds

Allan potash mine in Canada’s Saskatchewan province. (Image courtesy of Nutrien.)

Canada’s Nutrien (TSX, NYSE: NTR), the world’s biggest producer of potash fertilizer,  is temporarily laying off workers at three of its Saskatchewan mines in response to a short-term slowdown in global markets.

The company said late on Wednesday that it expected to take production downtime at its Allan, Lanigan and Vanscoy mines starting in November.

The shutdowns may last up to eight weeks and will affect between 480 to 750 people, according to the union representing workers at two of the sites.

Shutdowns at Allan, Lanigan and Vanscoy mines may last up to eight weeks and affect between 480 to 750 people

The Saskatoon-based company said if all three facilities were to remain idle for two months, potash production could be reduced by roughly 700,000 tonnes.

The measure could cut into the company’s before-tax earnings by up to C$150 million, it said.

Nutrien, created by the merger of Potash Corp. and Agrium, remains optimistic on potash demand for 2020, despite current market weakness.

“We remain focused on a gradual ramp-up of production to meet demand and to ensure we operate the safest, most reliable and efficient potash business in the world,”  it said in a media statement.

The miner lowered its forecast earnings for the year in July to reflect the impact of wet weather on US planting and other factors that would reduce demand for potash in North America, China and India.

Belarus, one of the world’s largest potash exporters, warned earlier this month that it was planning to cut production of the crop nutrient by almost a third within the next three to four months due to weak global demand.

In August, potash major Mosaic Co. said it would indefinitely shutter its Colonsay mine east of Saskatoon, resulting in around 350 layoffs.

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