Argentine province demands new Vale timeline on potash project

BUENOS AIRES Fri Jan 25, 2013 12:50pm EST

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BUENOS AIRES Jan 25 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale SA must provide a new timeline for work on the roughly $6 billion Rio Colorado potash project within five working days or it risks losing the concession, Argentina's Mendoza province said on Friday.

Vale, the world's second-largest mining company, said on Thursday it extended vacation for workers at the Mendoza-based site, which began on Dec. 22, and did not have a date for work to resume.

In a statement on Friday, Mendoza's provincial government said it ordered Vale to present a new timeline for the project or the concession could be considered "abandoned."

A spokesman for Vale in Argentina was not immediately available to comment.

The company said previously the project was not suspended but it had extended vacation time while it "analyzes variations in the project's economic fundamentals."

In early December, Vale cut estimated 2013 capital spending by 24 percent after a global slowdown and a drop in iron ore prices led the company to rethink expansion. Two months before, it said it planned to sell underperforming assets to control costs and boost profit.

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