The company says the decision had only been taken after “long and careful thought”, using some 250 non-unionised staff.

A different dispute at the company’s Sudbury, Ontario, operation has 3200 people on strike over contract terms with no end in sight after eight months. The staff walked out in mid-July.
 
One of the world’s biggest nickel producers, Vale reported 2009 earnings down nearly 60% from $13.5 billion in 2008 to $5.3 billion. However, fourth quarter earnings in 2009 showed a gain of 11% year-on-year to $1.5 billion.