* Vale wants to return to normal production in Voisey’s Bay
* Workers at Voisey’s Bay on strike since Aug 1
TORONTO, July 5 (Reuters) - A tentative agreement to end a year-long walkout at Vale’s VALE5.SA Sudbury, Ontario, mining operations has raised hope that the Brazilian company may soon settle with striking workers at Voisey’s Bay in eastern Canada. [ID:nN04213666]
Bob Gallagher, a spokesman for the United Steelworker’s union, said the tentative deal with more than 3,000 workers in Sudbury and Port Colborne, will make it easier for the two sides to settle at Voisey’s Bay, where roughly 200 workers have been on strike since August 1, 2009.
“They are separate agreements and it would have to be resolved separately. But, we are assuming with this clearing that it should be easier for Voisey’s Bay,” said Gallagher.
Together, the Sudbury and Voisey’s Bay operations account for roughly 10 percent of global nickel supply. Nickel prices are up 3.4 percent this year, making the metal one of the strongest performers. Most metals have shown double-digit percentage declines. [ID:nSGE66404U]
Cory McPhee, a spokesperson for Vale, was more cautious about a hopes of a settlement at Voisey’s Bay, noting that it is “probably a leap at this point” to view the tentative deal in Ontario as having an impact on talks at Voisey’s Bay.
“However, we have always said it appeared to us that from the USW’s perspective getting a settlement in Ontario was a first step,” said McPhee. “We want to return to normal production in Voisey’s Bay as well. There are no talks scheduled there, but certainly that would be our intent.”
Voisey’s Bay, located in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, produced 77,500 tonnes of nickel and 55,4000 tonnes of copper in 2008, the last year of uninterrupted production.
Vale resumed partial production at Voisey’s earlier this year using non-union workers and outside contractors at an annualized rate of about 19,000 tonnes of nickel and 15,000 tonnes of copper. (Reporting by Euan Rocha; Editing by Frank McGurty)