LONDON, Jul 09, 2010 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) --
By Rhiannon Hoyle
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Members of Canada's United Steelworkers union at Vale SA's (VALE) Ontario nickel operations are expected to return to work within four to six weeks, following which the Brazilian miner will ramp back up to full capacity, the miner told Dow Jones Newswires Friday.
Workers Friday ratified new five-year collective bargaining agreements, bringing to an end a strike that has lasted nearly a year.
Vale, the world's fourth-largest nickel producer, said its smelter at Sudbury has been operating at 50% capacity since January.
"We expect all employees to return to work within four to six weeks, [and] from there we will ramp up to full production," Vale spokesman Cory McPhee said.
He said he was unable, however, to currently put a timeline on how quickly following the return of the striking workers the operations would reach full capacity.
A spokesman for the United Steelworkers union, or USW, said it was written into the contract that workers would "begin to return on or before day 22 following ratification and no later than week 6."
"So, we suspect there will be a couple weeks of preparing the work sites before the lion's share of the workers return to work," he said.
USW Local 6500 members in Sudbury this week voted 75% in favor of the new contract, while Local 6200 members in Port Colborne ratified the deal with the backing of 74% of members.
Workers at Vale's Voisey's Bay nickel operations in eastern Canada remain on strike, though a deal with the Ontario steelworker locals is expected to greatly increase the chances of a deal there.
McPhee said negotiations at Voisey's Bay are due to resume on July 19.