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Michael Moore adds star power to Manitoba mining battle

Michael Moore is taking on a Brazilian-owned mining company that's decided to close a nickel smelter and refiner in Manitoba just months after it received a $1-billion loan from Export Development Canada.

It was Mr. Moore's film about the devastation wrought in Flint, Michigan, by the decline of the auto sector that first brought him international acclaim.

Now he is joining the fight against Vale, second-largest mining company in the world, being waged by Niki Ashton, the NDP MP for the northern Manitoba riding Churchill, which includes Thompson where the mine is located.

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In a post on his website titled "Why I Support the People of Thompson, Canada – And You Should Too," Mr. Moore says: "Right now Thompson is fighting a frontline battle in a war that's been raging for the past 30 years – the global war of the world's rich on the middle class."

The post also features a sombre video that shows the people of Thompson lamenting the effect that the Vale decision will have on their community. The closure could cost 500 jobs.

In 2006, the government of Canada approved Vale's purchase of Inco which had previously owned the Thompson mine. Vale also received the loan last fall after promising to increase employment but subsequently announced that the smelter and refinery would close by 2015.

"Michael Moore's support for our campaign helps us send the message that this is not just about Thompson, it's not just about Canada – it's about all of us fighting to have control of our future," Ms. Ashton said in a press release on Friday. "It was Flint yesterday. It's us and others today. Tomorrow, who knows? That's why we're reaching out, that's why we're fighting back and that's why it's important that our message is going global."

Coincidentally, Vale announced its earnings Friday, which set industry record net profits of $17.3-billion last year, more than tripling 2009's figures thanks to a "stellar performance."

"It is our best ever annual result, characterized by all-time high figures for operating revenues, operating income, operating margin, cash generation and net earnings," the company said in its annual report.

Vale's chief executive Roger Agnelli said in the company statement that Vale is living through its best days.

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"However, given the size and quality of our pipeline of growth projects amid a scenario of sustained global demand growth for our products, I strongly believe that even better days are ahead of us," he added.

Vale's 2010 results were 30 per cent higher than its former record results registered in 2008.

With a report from AFP

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Gloria Galloway has been a journalist for almost 30 years. She worked at the Windsor Star, the Hamilton Spectator, the National Post, the Canadian Press and a number of small newspapers before being hired by The Globe and Mail as deputy national editor in 2001. Gloria returned to reporting two years later and joined the Ottawa bureau in 2004. More

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