Workers at a huge nickel mine in Canada owned by Vale ( VALE), the Brazilian mining giant, went on strike Monday after the collapse of collective bargaining -- a move that some industry watchers feel could help the mining industry in general. Already Vale had temporarily shut down the mine, which produced 31% of the company's 2008 nickel yield, for an eight-week period beginning June 1, due to weak demand amid the global recession. More than 3,200 workers went on strike, the vast majority at the Sudbury nickel mine, in Ontario. A nearby gold, silver and platinum property had 116 workers head to the picket line. Meanwhile, in Peru, miners went on strike at an iron-ore vein owned by the Chinese extractor Shoungang, shutting down production at the facility, which produces about 7.5 million tons of ore a year. Somewhat counterintuitively, perhaps, the strikes could prove a boon to metal extractors, who've been suffering by and large from slumping demand and prices. According to a research note by mining stock analyst Anthony Rizzuto, of the small investment bank Dahlman Rose, "We believe that strikes such as these will continue to be a supportive feature of metals and mineral prices over the intermediate to long-term, as they effectively remove supply from the market, and push the marginal cost of production higher." Vale's American Depository Receipts were trading relatively flat Tuesday afternoon at $16.43, down 2 cents from the previous close, on volume of 21 million. Average daily turnover is 31 million.
Rivals Rio Tinto ( RTP) and BHP Billiton ( BHP), on the other hand, saw their U.S.-listed ADRs trade in the green. Rio was moving recently at $131.71, up 2%, while BHP had gained 3% to $53.23. Shares of U.S. mining bellwether Freeport-McMoRan ( FCX) were up 8 cents to $48. As happens from time to time in the mining industry, intrigue and violence have also beset the sector of late. The Chinese government recently detained for questioning the head of Rio Tinto's iron-ore operations after the Aussie mining company pulled out of a joint-venture deal with Chinalco, a Chinese government-owned aluminum concern. China has accused Rio and BHP of colluding to boost iron ore prices. A senior Shoundang official with ties to Rio has also been detained, according to reports. Separately, two people affiliated with Freeport's infamous Grasberg mine, the huge copper and gold mine in the Papua province of Indonesia, were shot to death there this past weekend, one by a sniper, another in a gunfight. Officials blamed the attacks on separatist rebels seeking Papuan independence. The mine has long been accused of creating an environmental disaster in the area.