BUENOS AIRES, March 15 Argentina ordered
Brazil's Vale SA on Friday to keep on at least 6,500
workers at the $6 billion Rio Colorado fertilizer project, which
the company halted this week after it failed to get tax
"Not a single lay-off will be allowed," Argentine Labor
Minister Carlos Tomada told a news conference, saying the
declaration of compulsory conciliation applied to workers
employed directly by Vale as well as contractors.
"In the case that the companies do not respect it,
significant fines will apply," Tomada added.
The measure prevents lay-offs until April 11 and compulsory
conciliation orders can be extended subsequently.
Officials at Vale headquarters in Rio de Janeiro were not
immediately available for comment.
Vale, the world's second-biggest mining company, said on
Monday it was halting operations at the potash mining project
after failing to get the tax breaks it wanted from the
Vale asked for the tax breaks to help ease soaring costs it
attributes to Argentina's rampant inflation and controlled
A source with direct knowledge of Vale's plans told Reuters
on Wednesday that the company, the top global producer of iron
ore, plans to sell the fertilizer project in Argentina to recoup
the $2.2 billion it has invested so far.
The suspension of the project is a blow for left-leaning
President Cristina Fernandez, and officials warned Vale that
scrapping the project for good would violate the terms of the
News of the project's suspension sent shockwaves through the
Andean province of Mendoza due to fears over the impact of
thousands of job losses.
Local Governor Francisco Perez told Friday's news conference
the project would go ahead "with or without Vale."