Update 1 – Vale back at work on Ontario nickel project – by Allison Martell and Euan Rocha (Reuters U.S. – February 3, 2014)

http://www.reuters.com/

(Reuters) – Vale SA’s Canadian unit has resumed work on its Copper Cliff Deep nickel project in the Sudbury basin and expects to complete a feasibility study by the end of the year, a company executive said on Monday.

The project is expected to cost somewhere in the range of a billion dollars to build and could be one of the unit’s lower-cost operations, said Kelly Strong, Vale’s vice president of Ontario and UK operations.

If it goes ahead, the revised project, now dubbed Copper Cliff Mine, would be another boost for the Sudbury basin in northern Ontario, where Vale recently opened Totten, its first new mine in more than 40 years. “It’s going to look a little bit different than the original project – it’s going to be three phases,” said Strong.

The project would merge and expand what are now two separate mines. Its earlier incarnation was put on hold in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2010, Vale Canada said it was re-evaluating the project, though work did not proceed.

The first of the three phases could start producing within the next two to three years, Strong told Reuters. A final go-ahead will depend on the project securing a green light from Vale’s board in Brazil.

Mining companies from around the world are in Toronto this week for the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada convention, which is the industry’s largest annual gathering.

Strong, who leads Vale’s operations in the Sudbury basin, also played down expectations that the Brazilian miner would reach a deal early this year with rival metals producer and trader Glencore Xstrata Plc to merge their adjacent Canadian nickel projects.

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