In what Vale termed adjusting nickel production to global demand, the company announced Thursday it has slowed completion of its Onça Puma nickel project in Brazil and will be shutting down its nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin in Canada for two months.

The Brazil mega-miner will be shutting down all of its nickel operations in the Sudbury Basin for eight weeks from June 1 through July 27. In addition, processing facilities for precious metals that are a by-product of Sudbury nickel mining will also be shut down during the period.

Sudbury is one of the world's largest nickel-mining regions. Last year its mines provided the feed for 31% of Vale's global nickel production. The summer shutdown is expected to impact 5,000 jobs and have a broader impact on the community, where more than 1,000 mining jobs have already been eliminated by Vale Inco, Xstrata and other mining companies.

Vale estimates that Brazil's Onça Puma project in the State of Pará in Brazil is expected to have a nominal annual production capacity of 58,000 metric tons of nickel in ferronickel once it comes on stream. It is anticipated to have a 33-year mine life.  It was originally due on stream at the beginning of 2010 and now Vale reckons start up will be postponed by at least a year.

Meanwhile, Vale also announced Thursday that the company has concluded the sale of all of its 14,869,368 common shares issued by steelmaker Usinas Siderúgicas de Minas Gerais S/A-Usiminas (equivalent to 5.89% of Usiminas common shares or 2.93% of its total capital) to a group of Usiminas' shareholders including Camargo Corrêa, Mitsubishi Corporation, Nippon, and Votorantim for a total of R$594.7 million (US$273,346,792).

Vale is thus no longer part of the group controlling Usiminas.