Xstrata Copper feels pinch from Vale Inco nickel strike

While the masses have gone back to work and school after Labour Day, the last long weekend of summer will stretch 7-10 weeks for many at Xstrata Copper’s Kidd Metallurgical Site near Timmins, Ont.

The copper smelter and refinery, which employs about 200 people, began a temporary shutdown this week due to a shortage of third-party copper concentrate. The company did not say exactly how many people would be affected.

Xstrata Copper, a subsidiary of Switzerland-based Xstrata (XSRAF-O, XTA-L), says the Vale Inco (RIO-N) strike in nearby Sudbury put the Kidd operation in a tight spot.

About 20% of the plant’s supply of copper concentrate usually comes from Vale Inco’s Sudbury operations. About 3,100 people walked off the job in mid-July, halting production from six nickel mines. Vale processes its own nickel but sends copper concentrate to the Kidd site.

Vale has said that it will send 1,200 non-unionized employees and some outsourced staff back to work to restart partial production through the duration of the strike.

Xstrata Copper laid off 175 employees from the Kidd copper smelter in April for eight weeks due to a drop in sales of sulphuric acid. Many were forced to use up vacation time. Xstrata Nickel let 686 salaried and unionized employees go from its nickel mines in Sudbury in February this year in a restructuring.

Xstrata doesn’t plan to find other copper concentrate feed sources during the shutdown.

The Kidd site usually produces about 145,000 tonnes of copper cathode a year.



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