Decision to Close Smelter Should Not Be in the Hands of Global Private Interests

Glencore said the lockout and its dispute with workers are "unrelated to the permanent closure" of the smelter. It said this despite the fact that the cartel planned to invest $65 million in the smelter and had already spent $20 million to build a new acid plant.

Without prior discussion or providing any proof, Glencore cited poor business results and financial forecasts as reasons for the shutdown. This method is very convenient because the cartel believes the power of property ownership and the control this entails allows the oligarchs to say and do whatever they want, including what to do with the added-value workers have produced over the years; whether to invest that value in the plant and community or not, and whether to continue production at the smelter or destroy it.

The imperialist right of global private interests to decide denies workers and community members and officials any say in decisions concerning the socialized economy. It deprives them of the modern right to agree or not to agree to such important decisions as where to invest the added-value workers produce, and whether or not to destroy a productive facility. This must change!

Without providing any verifiable evidence, Glencore spokesperson Alexis Segal told CBC News, "We need to be very clear that the plant was not making money for the last three years. In fact, the plant lost in average over the last three years $30 million per year. And after this last budget cycle it was evident that things would not be improved in the coming years either."

Glencore Zinc & Lead Assets head Chris Eskdale said: "The decision to cease lead smelting operations at our Brunswick Smelter was a very difficult one. Despite years of efforts by committed employees and a strong management team, the smelter has been uneconomic since the closure of the Brunswick Mine in 2013.

"We have thoroughly assessed all our options and come to the unavoidable conclusion that the smelter is simply not sustainable, regardless of the recent labour dispute."

"Uneconomic since 2013!" What nonsense! This begs the question why Glencore as recently as this year planned to develop the smelter and continue its transition to a custom smelter with an investment of $64 million in an acid plant. The first phase, worth about $20 million, has already been completed. Both the investment and the shutdown remain company secrets, with workers and others most closely affected left in the dark without a voice.

Glencore officials trotted out the usual explanation of increased international competition, particularly from several new lead smelters in China. This flies in the face of nation-building and the development of a self-reliant diverse economy that does not base itself on competing in the world. Such an economy invests in its people and extended reproduction and diversity of the economy adding strength to the overall economy through building up the collective efforts of all its regions and sectors through planning and increased investments in manufacturing, refining natural resources, expanding social programs and free public services and trading with others in friendship for mutual benefit and development.

Canada needs not only primary smelting but also custom smelters to increase the country's capacity to recycle lead and other finite resources. The country cannot continue simply to extract finite raw material such as lead and zinc at maximum speed until the resource is exhausted as Xstrata did at Brunswick Mine #12. Finite resources must be mined carefully with the social wealth they bring invested in other sectors and the people, and keeping the future always in mind, not just immediate profits as the imperialists do.

The last primary lead smelter in Canada is now Teck Resources' Trail Operations in BC. The last U.S. primary lead smelter closed in December 2013 when Doe Run shut its smelter in Missouri. Does this mean that the imperialists have other schemes currently underway to extend their theft of the lead, zinc, lithium other resources and capacity to work including smelting in weaker countries within the imperialist system of states such as Bolivia? Is Glencore involved in the recent coup in Bolivia where the government of Evo Morales nationalized three of its facilities to serve the Bolivian people and is said to have driven a hard bargain with foreign investors? Bolivia is known to have vast reserves of lead and lithium both necessary in the production of batteries, which are now in great demand.[1] Facts are stubborn things that do not easily disappear; they become widely known if the people organize and fight to defend their interests.

Canadians must denounce the Glencore closure and attack on the economy of New Brunswick and intimidation of the working class. The rights of the workers must be put in first place and they must have a decisive voice on how this unfolds.


1. With estimated 9,000,000 metric tons, Bolivia holds about 43 per cent of the world's known lithium reserves; most of those are in the Salar de Uyuni. Lithium is concentrated in the brine under the salt crust at a relatively high concentration of about 0.3 per cent.

This article was published in

Number 27 - November 20, 2019

Article Link:
Decision to Close Smelter Should Not Be in the Hands of Global Private Interests


Website:   Email: