Ojibway salt mine's $60M expansion 'good news for Windsor'

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Windsor Star/Trevor Wilhem


The world’s largest salt producer is embarking on a $60-million expansion of its Ojibway mine in Windsor that will secure jobs and extend the life of the operation by nearly 50 years.

“This is good news for Windsor and good news for Windsor for a long time to come,” said Bill Wark, president of Unifor Local 1959, which represents workers at the mine. “Any time you can get a company to invest $60 million in a project, that’s a good thing these days.”

K+S Windsor Salt Ltd. announced Monday the five-year plan will expand the mine about 400 feet below its current level. Windsor Salt said the investment, which also includes upgrading technology, will allow the mine to operate until 2063.

“This is one of the most significant developments in the mine’s history,” Mike Soave, manager of the Ojibway salt mine, said in a press release. “As a longtime employer and member of the Windsor community, we are very pleased to have the support of our company and the local union to drive this important expansion forward.”

The project is in the final stages of engineering and design. Infrastructure changes required for the expansion will start in 2017. A production ramp-up is scheduled for 2018.

The investment is focused on the company’s Ojibway operation on Morton Drive, which mostly produces rock salt used for de-icing roads, streets and sidewalks during the winter. It also produces salt for other uses including water softening.

The mine, which opened in 1959, can produce three million metric tons of salt each year. More than 225 people work at the Ojibway mine. Wark said they make about $35 an hour.

The investment doesn’t affect the company’s other location on Prospect Avenue, which was established in 1893 and produces food-grade salt.

Wark said there may be some “supplementary hiring” to get the Ojibway expansion going, though he didn’t know how many new jobs that means.

“It certainly solidifies the jobs within the current membership and our local as a whole,” said Wark. “This is good news to create some jobs initially and solidify some good-paying jobs here in Windsor for a long time to come.”

Mayor Drew Dilkens called Monday’s announcement “another good news story.”

“We see Chrysler investing over $2 billion in their operation to retain and expand their operation, then you have Windsor Salt making a big investment in their mine that will retain those jobs and help expand the mine at the same time,” he said.

“It’s great news that production will continue and those employees with good-paying jobs will continue here for quite a long time.”

Windsor’s salt mining legacy began around 1890 when the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway took notice of a company in Michigan producing salt. The company sunk a test well on its Windsor land in 1891 and found salt.

By 1893, company subsidiary The Windsor Salt Mine was up and running. They sold the operation within a few years and it became The Canadian Salt Company Ltd.

The company was renamed K+S Windsor Salt Ltd. in 2014. It is part of the K+S Group, the world’s largest salt producer.