“Our nickel operations in Canada and around the world are facing some significant short-term challenges with the drop in commodity prices, but we continue to view the longer-term outlook as positive,” Vale spokesperson Angie Robson said in an email.
“As a result Vale is currently reviewing costs associated with all of our base metals operations globally in order to find ways we can reduce costs to address the short-term challenges.”
She added that “other decisions on impacts, if any, to our Sudbury operations, will be made within the next four to six weeks. At this point there's nothing else to report in terms of any other impact.”
Up until this point, Vale has been on something of a hiring spree for its Sudbury operations.
Rick Bertrand, president of Steelworkers Local 6500, the union representing a portion of Vale's local workers, said just this week, he met with 19 apprentices who have been taken on by the company.
Another 40 miners are in the process of undergoing training and medical exams before they start work at Vale, he said. As far as Bertrand knows, these workers still have a job.
The hiring freeze went into effect sometime last week, he said.
“Where they're stopping is someone new, today, who wants to be hired at Vale,” Bertrand said. “Right now there's a freeze on that part.”
As for the announcement Vale expects to make in the near future about its Sudbury operations, the union boss said he doesn't know anything for sure at this point.
“There's a lot of rumours about different things about closure and the sale of the company, and layoffs and all that kind of stuff,” Bertrand said.
“At this point, the number one priority for people is to go to work, and be safe, and not let that kind of stuff worry them. Every time there's an announcement ... people get nervous, which is understandable. But I haven't had anything from the company saying there's going to be any kind of layoffs.”
The company's former owner, Inco Ltd., would have thought they were making “a ton of money” at $7.50 a pound, he said.
“I guess a company like Vale, they have their reasons why they think the nickel is low,” Bertrand said. “They're probably not making as much.”