Feds seek answers on Vale shutdown

Sun Apr 19, 2009 5:01pm EDT
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TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian government wants Brazilian mining giant Vale to explain its plans for an eight-week shutdown of its Ontario mining operations and will examine "all available options" to be sure that the company meets its obligations.

Industry Minister Tony Clement said Ottawa was examining how the June 1 shutdown, announced on Thursday, tied in with commitments Vale made when it bought Canada's Inco in 2006.

"The government has demanded answers from the company today to explain how its announcement has an impact on the undertakings it agreed to when Companhia Vale do Rio Doce purchased Inco in 2006," Clement said in a statement.

"Vale made legally binding commitments under the Investment Canada Act at that time that I expect to be fully respected on behalf of the workers. Over the next few days, we will be exploring all available options, including legal options, to address this situation."

Vale's shutdown was part of a plan to trim global nickel output as a slowing global economy curbs demand. The metal's price has plunged some 80 percent in less than two years.

The move follows a February decision by Anglo-Swiss miner Xstrata to suspend the bulk of its Sudbury operations. It caps a remarkable downturn in Sudbury's fortunes, where the Vale shutdown will all but silence mining activity.

Clement said the Canadian government would make sure workers at Vale were informed about employment insurance options, should Vale go ahead with its shutdown.

(Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Jan Paschal)

<p>People walk the Brazilian mining company Vale's building in Rio de Janeiro, February 12, 2008. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes</p>