Shell Canada received a provincial government letter Monday morning authorizing it to proceed with the dismantling of its oldest refinery in the country in the East End of Montreal, a company spokesman said.

Nicole Belval says the process will begin later this summer and will take up to eight years to complete, and that the company will work with the city of Montreal East to coordinate the sector by sector dismantling.

The refinery stopped production of petroleum products nine months ago and had been functioning as a distribution terminal ever since, employing about 100 people.

Jean Claude Rocheleau, a former employee who now acts as a consultant to the union for the Shell workers, said they have not been advised by either the government or the company that a go ahead for dismantling the refinery has been issued.

He said that it shows a complete lack of respect towards the workers on the part of the government and the company. Daniel Summers, the new union president, was at work Monday but Rocheleau spoke with him and he said Summers had not been advised by either the company or the government.

Rocheleau also criticized Natural Resource Minister Nathalie Normandeau, saying that she ignored more than a year and a half of work geared towards saving the 800 jobs directly tied to the refinery.

Rocheleau said the shut down of the Shell refinery would drop Quebec's refining capacity by 25 per cent, but in a communiqué Monday, Normandeau said the province's supply will be met by the two working refineries that remain.

Those two refineries produce 405,000 barrels of petroleum per day and Quebec's consumption sits at around 360,000 barrels per day, leaving a surplus of more than 40,000 barrels daily.

"Over the past few months, the various analyses led our government to conclude that the closure of the Shell refinery would in now way compromise Quebec's supply of petroleum products," Normandeau said in a statement. "

Normandeau and Economic Development Minister Clément Gignac say the decision to allow the dismantling of the massive refinery falls in line with a desire to diversity the economy of the East End of Montreal.

The authorization to dismantle the refinery also comes with a condition that Shell de-contaminate the land, something Normandeau says also falls in line with local wishes.

"Along with the local players, business people and representatives of the various levels of government, we want to re-launch the East End of Montreal," Gignac says. "The government plans to support, through subsidy programs, all credible investment projects that could contribute to this economic diversification."

Shell plans on keeping a small portion of its land to use as a distribution terminal, which would employ about 25 to 30 people as opposed to the 800 who worked at the refinery.

The company announced in January, 2010 that it wanted to shut down the refinery, but a court injunction in July of last year prevented it from dismantling it.

Shell had been in talks with Delek US Holdings to sell the refinery, but those broke down in August, just before a Superior Court decision came down in favour of Shell Canada giving it the right to dismantle the refinery.

All that was left was government approval, which Shell Canada now has.

Aside from the land it needs to house its distribution centre, the rest of the land used by the refinery will be sold as soon as the de-contamination is complete.