Falconbridge Limited was a Toronto, Ontario-based natural resources company with operations in 18 countries, involved in the exploration, mining, processing, and marketing of metal and mineral products, including nickel, copper, cobalt, and platinum. It was listed on the TSX (under the symbol FAL.LV) and NYSE (FAL), and had revenue of $6.9 billion USD in 2005. In August 2006, it was absorbed by Swiss-based mining company Xstrata, which had formerly been a major shareholder.
Just one year later in 1929, the new company acquired the Nikkelverk refinery in Kristiansand. This expanded its operations, but more importantly the company also gained the rights to the Hybinette nickel refining process.
The operations at the Falconbridge site expanded in the early 1930s. By 1930 ore from an underground mine was being extracted at 250 tonnes per day, and a nearby smelter was in operation to process the material. In 1932, a mill and sintering facility began operation.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, significant expansion of the Sudbury Basin operations took place, including some twelve new mines. All recovered nickel, copper, and smaller amounts of other materials including platinides. Meanwhile, the Nikkelverk operation began recovering cobalt alongside previous extractions in 1952, using a new refining process. In 1962, Falconbridge acquired Ventures Limited, including its numerous international operations and geological exploration infrastructure, allowing further expansion and growth outside of Canada.
In 1977, Falconbridge patented the chlorine leach nickel refining process that had been developed in-house.
The late 1970s saw the company play a role, alongside Inco, in the environmental reclamation efforts undertaken in the Sudbury region. As part of this, a new, more efficient smelter was opened, as well as a facility for the production of sulfuric acid. This commercially saleable chemical had been a source of significant ecological damage when it was produced in the atmosphere by the reaction of sulfur dioxide emissions. The new acid plant allowed this effect to be greatly reduced by catalyzing the reaction before emission, while producing additional revenue from the sale of the acid.
By 1984, the commercial reserves at the original Falconbridge Mine had been exhausted. Production continued at several other sites in the Sudbury area. The company expanded within northern Ontario by acquiring the Kidd Mine in Timmins, Ontario. Expansion continued in the 1990s, with a new mine in Sudbury, and one at Raglan in northern Quebec, though Falconbridge lost the bidding war with Inco for the deposit at Voisey's Bay. The new century saw more acquisitions, including the Montcalm mine in Timmins, the Kabanga project in Tanzania, and the Lomas Bayas mine in Chile.
In June 2005 Falconbridge merged with Noranda, previously the 58.4% owner, continuing under the name Falconbridge Limited. Noranda brought significant variety to the business, including operations in aluminum mining and recycling of electronic hardware.
Another Canadian operation was the Kidd Mine site in Timmins, Ontario which includes an underground zinc/copper mine, mill, copper smelter and copper refinery, zinc plant, indium plant, cadmium plant, and sulfuric acid plants. Falconbridge also operated the Montcalm underground nickel mine west of Timmins. Other sites were located in Quebec, Ontario (Rouyn-Noranda: Horne copper smelter, Montreal: CCR copper refinery, Valleyfield: CEZ zinc refinery, Nunavik: Raglan underground nickel/copper mine and mill) and Bathurst, New Brunswick (Brunswick underground zinc/lead mine, lead smelter and lead refinery, and silver refinery).
Falconbridge Ltd. also operated an aluminium smelter in New Madrid, Missouri and an aluminum refinery in Gramercy, Louisiana. The aluminum produced from these mills was prepared in one of four rolling mills located in Huntingdon, Tennessee (2 mills); Salisbury, North Carolina (1 mill); and Newport, Arkansas (1 mill).
South American properties were mainly copper deposits such as the Antamina copper/zinc open-pit mine in northern Peru, the Collahuasi copper/molybdenum open-pit mine (including mill, liquid-liquid extraction plant, and electrowinning plant) in northern Chile, the Lomas Bayas open-pit copper mine (including liquid-liquid extraction plant and electrowinning plant), and the Altonorte copper smelter also in northern Chile.
Falconbridge also owned a Boeing 737-200 (registration C-FFAL). The aircraft is based in Toronto at Pearson International Airport. The aircraft was repainted with Xstrata livery following the takeover, and still operates.
The two companies were set upon by hostile takeover bids from rival firms. Swiss Xstrata, already 19.9% owner of Falconbridge, bid for a complete acquisition, while Teck Cominco of Vancouver set its sights on Inco.
On May 13, 2006, Inco announced that it increased its offer to acquire Falconbridge by $5.00 CAD per share, bringing the bid to $61.04 CAD per share (based on the June 23, 2006 Inco/Phelps Dodge share price).
On June 26, 2006, Phelps Dodge made a bid for the proposed combined Inco/Falconbridge company, valued at around $40 billion USD. This would have formed the Phelps Dodge Inco Corp., valued at $56 billion USD, creating the fifth largest mining company, largest nickel producer, and the second largest copper producer in the world with corporate and copper division headquarters located in Phoenix, Arizona and nickel division headquarters in Toronto, Ontario. The deadline for the Inco offer was July 13, 2006.
On May 18, 2006, Xstrata had announced a proposal to acquire Falconbridge for $52.50 CAD per share. This was a cash offer, unlike the Inco offer of a combination of cash and shares. On July 12, 2006, Xstrata announced that it increased its offer to acquire Falconbridge to $59.00 CAD per share (an approximate total value of $22.5 billion CAD). This counter-offer was 9.6% higher than Inco's bid. The deadline for Xstrata's bid to be complete was July 21, 2006. Xstrata acquired and absorbed Falconbridge in late August 2006, leaving Inco open to bids by Phelps Dodge and the Brazilian company CVRD. Falconbridge became Xstrata Nickel, which is still based in Toronto.
Some Falconbridge workers also lived in the nearby community of Happy Valley, which was abandoned in the 1960s due to pollution from the Falconbridge smelter.
"Falco", as it was often called by Sudbury residents, remained for decades the second-largest employer in the Sudbury area, exceeded only by rival mining giant Inco. The economic fortune of the city was tied to those of the mining companies, as a strike at either company had a major effect on the livelihood of thousands of workers. The effect diminished as economic diversification progressed in the 1980s and 1990s.
Citizens, particularly workers and their families, came to develop an attachment to what were seen as local companies with significant size and influence in the mining industry. In particular, a certain degree of rivalry between workers at the two mining giants, who were members of rival labour unions, developed. In the 1950s and early 1960s, factional wars between the competing unions sometimes led to riots in the streets of Sudbury.
A proposal to merge Inco and Falconbridge in 2006 was headed with the slogan "Two proud histories, one great future", in reference to the strong identities which workers and the community had attached to the companies.
A major street in Sudbury is named Falconbridge Road, after the company and community. In 2007, Xstrata donated Falconbridge's historic Edison Building, its onetime head office, to the city of Greater Sudbury to serve as the new home of the city archives.