Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/12/2008 (4131 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Brazilian-owned mining company said Thursday that beginning in January, it will shut down the Copper Cliff South mine in Sudbury, Ont., for "an undetermined period of time."
But its large nickel complex in Thompson will emerge relatively unscathed.
"The impact in Thompson will be far less than it is some other areas," company spokesman Cory McPhee said. "There will be no interruptions or closures other than a previously announced one-month shutdown for maintenance purposes in August which was a regularly scheduled event."
It is a different story in Sudbury where the company's 365 employees at Copper Cliff South will be redeployed to other operations. Vale Inco, Canada's largest nickel producer, employs 4,700 people in the Sudbury area at six mines, a mill, a smelter and a refinery.
It has more than 1,700 employees in Thompson, including about 1,270 unionized employees.
The company said it is launching a voluntary retirement program targeting about 350 employees around the world and plans other cost-cutting initiatives.
Only about 40 to 50 people in Thompson will be eligible for the voluntary retirement program, which will be offered to employees with 29 years' experience or more with the company.
The moves were precipitated by plummeting world nickel prices in the midst of the current global slump in commodity prices.
Nickel fell to $4.03 a pound on Thursday, down from $13 at the beginning of the year.
A planned development in Sudbury, the Copper Cliff Deep project, has been shelved for a year.
Vale Inco said it also plans to shut down the Ovoid mine and a processing mill at its Voisey's Bay operations, in Newfoundland and Labrador, for all of next July.
The company has scaled back its Indonesian operation by 25 per cent and its nickel refinery in Dalian, China, is running at 35 per cent capacity.
The company has also decided to significantly reduce the rate of ramp-up of two new nickel projects it has under development — one in the tiny South Pacific island of New Caledonia and one in Brazil.
Metal prices have plunged dramatically amid fears that a global economic downturn will affect demand.
Various mining companies have responded by temporarily shutting down mines, which some analysts say they believe could lead to a supply crunch and resulting jump in prices as the global economy grinds back into gear.
While Thompson operations dodged a bullet on Thursday, workers in the northern Manitoba city are still upset after having been denied a quarterly bonus that all the other Canadian divisions received.
Les Ellsworth, president of the United Steelworkers of America Local 6166, said the union's lawyers are in the middle of legal action to obtain information to explain why the bonus was spiked. The quarterly bonus, which would have been worth as much as $6 an hour for workers, is triggered by the profitability of the Manitoba division (as long as nickel is trading at more than $2.25 a pound).
McPhee said the Manitoba division recorded a loss for the quarter but could not provide any more details.
— With files from CP
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.