Yahoo! News – Nickel Strong Despite Falconbridge Deal: “they said dwindling stocks were compounding a global shortage of the metal, used mainly in the production of stainless steel. This would keep prices close to double their levels a year ago and close to a 14-1/2-year peak reached last month”

Industry analysts expect the global shortage of nickel to continue until at least 2006, when new capacity is scheduled to come on stream in Canada and New Caledonia.

“Actual consumption this year will not be sufficient to meet underlying demand for nickel, especially from booming stainless steel production in China,” AME’s Barkas said.

Mediator Adjourns Discussions between Falconbridge and CAW: “[…] and requested that the parties reflect on their respective positions. He will be contacting the parties with possible meeting dates for next week.

Falconbridge Sudbury operations are part of the Company’s Integrated Nickel Operations (INO). The operations employ over 1,500 people and consist of four underground mines, a mill and a smelter. Approximately 1,050 production and maintenance workers are represented by Sudbury Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union Local 598 (CAW). The strike began on February 1, 2004.

Falconbridge Limited is a leading producer of nickel, copper, cobalt and platinum group metals. “

Yahoo! News – Falconbridge Cuts Metals Output As Strike Bites: “The strike at Falconbridge Sudbury will slash its nickel output by 2,000 tonnes a month, but it expects to have enough stock to supply customers until next month.

Falconbridge officials said there were no immediate plans to declare force majeure as the firm had enough nickel stocks to meet supply commitments for the next four to six weeks.

Firms declare force majeure when they cannot meet supply contracts due to unforeseen circumstances. “

Strike Shuts Falconbridge Ontario Nickel Site: “The Sudbury smelter, which produced 57,900 tonnes of unrefined nickel in 2002, would be run at a reduced rate by a small number of non-union workers, Falconbridge spokesman Dale Coffin said. During the last strike at the unit, a six-month halt in 2000, the smelter was run at 50 percent to 60 percent capacity.

Metals markets have been on tenterhooks about a strike at the Canadian operation as it comes at a time when the world is forecast to need 30,000 tonnes more nickel than can be supplied. Nickel is a key ingredient in stainless steel.

The work stoppage comes just four months after a supply-crippling, 13-week strike ended at Toronto-based Inco Ltd, the world No. 2 producer.

A shutdown of the Sudbury mine, milling and smelting site will deplete world supplies by more than 4,000 tonnes a month. Smaller quantities of copper, cobalt and precious metals, which are mined as by-products of nickel, will also be lost.

Nickel prices more than doubled last year on supply worries and were expected to continue to rise with a Sudbury shutdown.”

First …. Yahoo! News – Union Says New Falconbridge Offer Not Good Enough: ”

‘There will be a strike,’ said Tom Datillo, an official with the Canadian Auto Workers ”

and then a few hours later …. Yahoo! News – Strike, Lock-Out Hit Falconbridge Nickel Site: “operations at Falconbridge Ltd.’s Sudbury site were halted on Sunday after the company and union failed to agree a new labor contract. ”

Metals markets have been on tenterhooks about a strike at the northern Ontario operation, as it would coincide with an already worrisome shortage of nickel. The work stoppage would come just four months after a supply-crippling, 13-week strike ended at Inco Ltd, the world No.2 producer.

Analysts expect the market to be short of 30,000 tonnes of nickel both this year and next year, creating problems for producers of stainless steel, of which the silvery white metal is a key ingredient.

… Well, there goes the price of stainless steel. While some of the possibility of this strike was priced into stainless steel surcharges, the actual strike happening will undoubtedly cause stainless prices to rise some more.

What can you, our customers, do about it? Well, get your orders in now for any stainless parts. There may still be stainless supply at the slitters, and at least some of them don’t pass surcharges through on steel they bought in the pre-surcharge era.

If you’re not willing to commit to an order for parts, sign an authority to purchase raw material, and we’ll get the raw material laid in at the old price. Of course, there were already some surcharges posted as in effect for February, but they’re very likely to get worse now before they get better.