Inco Ltd. is close to settling its dispute with the Newfoundland government over the processing of minerals from the Voisey's Bay site.
Although the agreement is closer to being settled than ever before, the earliest that production would take place would be in 2006, explains a company official.
The problem has been that the Newfoundland government wants the mined ore to be processed in the province.
Meanwhile, Inco's request for federal money to support research and development is pending, and officials believe that the request will not be looked at until an agreement is reached with the province of Newfoundland.
Inco bought the Voisey's Bay property in 1996 for $4.3 billion and planned to build a $1-billion smelter in Newfoundland to the process the ore.