Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Clement asks Vale about Sudbury shutdown

Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement says he has "demanded answers" about the eight-week layoff of 5,000 workers at Vale Inco's operations in Sudbury and Port Colborne, Ont.

Vale bought the Canadian nickel giant in 2006, and "made legally binding commitments under the Investment Canada Act at that time," Clement said in a news release Sunday.

The commitments are secret, the minister's press secretary Pema Lhalungpa said.

The company should respect those commitments, Clement said. "Over the next few days, we will be exploring all available options, including legal options, to address this situation."

Vale announced the layoff, which involves about 4,800 workers in Sudbury and 180 in Port Colborne, on Thursday. It cited the poor nickel market as the reason.

A company spokesman said Monday it had received a letter from the minister, and viewed it as part of the continuing discussions with Ottawa.

"We're happy to respond," said Cory McPhee.

Vale will close its operations from June 1 to July 27.