Stone Canyon’s Closure of Salt Production in Alberta
In August of 2022, Windsor Salt’s new owners, Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc., shut down a salt mine operation near the hamlet of Lindbergh, Alberta – 235 kilometres northeast of Edmonton – laying off 47 people. The town was set up as a company town to ensure the viability of the mine operations when it opened there in 1948 by having a labour force close by. The hamlet was supplied natural gas from wells at the mine as well as electricity and water treatment.
The operation was built on top of a natural salt deposit that was found while prospecting for oil and gas. Through evaporation it produced table salt, water softener, agricultural salt (used to deliver vital trace minerals to livestock) and ice melt (used for fast melting of ice), using salt obtained by high-pressure brine solution. Evaporation removes the water from the brine to produce high-purity salt once extracted from the wells, similar to those at Windsor, Ontario’s evaporation plant where workers are currently on strike. The products were used in Alberta and Saskatchewan, with some also going to Ontario.
Stone Canyon purchased K+S Americans Salt in 2021, which gave it ownership over the Lindbergh operations under the brand Morton Salt, which owns Windsor Salt. At the time of closing, Stone Canyon indicated it was the result of “financial matters” and that the facility was not “profitable” and stated its plan to tear down the closed building that housed the operations. Reports indicate that the main issue was the operations required investments to upgrade the gas wells and equipment. Instead of making the required investments to keep production of such a critical resource going, and the relations that have been established over the years so as to serve the province of Alberta and its neighbours, the company took the narrow decision to shut it down.
The relations – built up over the 74 years of operations– including the building of the hamlet where many workers lived, were subject to destruction at the hands of Stone Canyon Industries Holdings Inc., in its global plans to consolidate the salt industry under its control with the likely aim of flipping it to a new buyer, having eliminated parts that are deemed “unprofitable.” Workers and their communities are turned into things that can just be disposed of as part of global schemes outside of their control. This is not acceptable. In reality, whether they were profitable or not is not the main issue because these types of companies will destroy profitable facilities if it can make them money elsewhere. Canadians cannot permit governments to continue allowing such important natural and human resources to be left under the destructive control and whims of business decisions of large US or other foreign cartels. If they want to invest in Canadian natural resources it must be done in a manner that favours Canada and its communities and respects workers’ rights, or else they should be asked to leave.