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COLUMBUS - At this point, Scott Fladager said, he's not being too picky about what job he lands.

"I'd clean the piss ditch if that's what they wanted," he said. "A job is a job. You gotta do what you gotta do. Maybe in a year things will pick up."

Fladager, 37, of Livingston, was one of about 40 workers laid off by Stillwater Mining Co. who crowded the lobby and breakfast room at the Super 8 here Friday in hopes of landing a job with Barrick Gold of North America.

The company is looking to hire 50 miners, mechanics and electricians for its three underground gold mines in northern Nevada.

"We've certainly had many openings for some time," said Dana Pray, recruiting manager for Barrick.

Stillwater Mining, based in Billings, announced Monday that it is restructuring to cut costs and would eliminate an estimated 320 company jobs and 50 contract jobs. The company produces platinum and palladium at its East Boulder and Stillwater mines.

Pray heads a team of 12 other Barrick representatives who conducted 30-minute interviews in hotel rooms upstairs and helped the workers fill out applications Friday afternoon and early evening. Earlier in the week, the group interviewed laid-off mine workers in Wallace, Idaho.

The hirings are an anomaly in the mining world right now. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that mines around the world are cutting output as prices for metals have dropped precipitously. Only months ago, things were much different. Pray said that up until then, it was a tight labor market for underground mine workers.

"We have a bigger pool to choose from now," she said.

"A couple of years ago, five minutes on the phone and they'd pay you to come down," Fladager said.

Fladager had worked at the East Boulder Mine for six years before taking a job with Rockwell in Wyoming. He returned to the East Boulder Mine only a couple of months ago, always keeping his home in Livingston.

"Now there's not a lot out there," he said. "People say they'll take your resume, but you never hear from them."

Barrick, headquartered in Toronto, operates 26 mines in eight countries and employs more than 20,000 people around the world, according to its Web site. The company purchased the Golden Sunlight Mine in Jefferson County in 2006.

The company's Nevada operations provide nonunion jobs with wages ranging from $18 to $28 an hour, not including bonuses based on production. Pray said the company hopes to have offers out to prospective employees before Thanksgiving. Some of the workers could start before Christmas and others by January.

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"It's nice to be able to have positions right now," Pray said. "But it's a bittersweet thing. It's kind of a sad time."

Tim Dore, 47, of Big Timber worked for four years at the East Boulder Mine. He said he didn't mind the group application process and was interested in finding what other job opportunities might be available to him.

Although he has two children and a wife to support, Dore said he isn't too worried about the loss of his job.

"I'm not as nervous about it as I should be," he said. "Life will keep going on one way or another."

Fladager, who is divorced and has a daughter, 16, and a son, 6, is worried that a new job will take him away from his family once again.

"That's what stinks," he said. "I can't pick them up and move them."

Contact Brett French at french@billingsgazette.com or at 657-1387.

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