With the nickel prices currently hovering around $7.50 a pound, international miner Vale has announced a temporary hiring freeze at its global base metals operations, including Sudbury.
“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,” said Vale spokesperson Angie Robson, in an emailed reply to Northern Life newspaper.
“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.”
With the Brazilian miner mothballing a $3-billion potash mine development in Saskatchewan, the company would neither confirm or deny if Vale could make a similar decision for operations in Sudbury.
Robson said “other decisions on impacts, if any, to our Sudbury operations, will be made within the next four to six weeks.”
Rick Bertrand, president of Steelworkers Local 6500, said the hiring freeze went into effect sometime in early September.
Until recently, Vale had been on a hiring spree in Sudbury.
Bertrand said he had recently 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 starting work. As far as Bertrand knew, those jobs were intact.
Local rumours have persisted for months whether Sudbury operations will be suspended.
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.”
“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.”
Bertrand said the former Inco would have thought they were making “a ton of money” at $7.50 a pound.
“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.”