Xstrata (XTA.L: Quote) Copper will shut down its Kidd Creek smelter in northern Ontario for eight weeks due to slumping demand for sulphuric acid, which it produces as a byproduct of copper, a company spokesman said on Tuesday.

The smelter, which produced 550,000 tonnes of acid last year alongside 124,000 tonnes of copper cathode, will shut on April 13, said spokesman Louis-Philippe Gariepy. Some smelters routinely close for a period each year for maintenance, but that had not been the plan at Kidd, he said.

We've seen since January a rising issue with sulphuric acid inventories, because there's a sharp drop in demand, Gariepy said.

Sulphuric acid prices and demand have slumped in the past year as the global economic slump has slowed activity in industries that use it, such as fertilizers, steelmaking, and mining.

The Kidd Creek mine and refinery will continue to operate and will stockpile concentrate while the smelter is down. Xstrata will be able to supply its copper customers from existing inventories for the duration of the shutdown, Gariepy said.

(The copper production) shouldn't be missed, he said, noting the company continues to produce copper at its Horne smelter in Quebec.

Xstrata acquired the assets when it purchased Canadian nickel and copper miner Falconbridge in 2006.

The shutdown will affect about 175 workers, although the company said will try to mitigate the impact. (Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Peter Galloway)

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