Vale on June 11 announced the milestone achievement of first ore production at its ambitious Voisey’s Bay Mine Expansion Project in northern Labrador. Voisey’s Bay is home to one of the largest nickel deposits in the world. Located on the north coast of Labrador, about 35 km south of Nain, Voisey’s Bay has been producing nickel from an open-pit operation since 2005. The transition from open-pit to underground involves the development of two underground mines – Reid Brook and Eastern Deeps – extending the life of Vale’s Labrador Operations well into the future. The underground mines will produce 40,000 t of nickel in concentrate and 20,000 t of copper in concentrate at a peak annual production rate of 2.6 Mt. Some 2,600 t/y of cobalt will be produced as a byproduct.
“Our Voisey’s Bay operations, and indeed our entire operating footprint in Newfoundland and Labrador, represent an incredible story of Indigenous participation, economic capacity building, environmental responsibility and safety performance,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “We look forward to continuing that proud tradition as our Mine Expansion effort moves forward.”
SEM-Hatch has provided detailed engineering and project management services for the mine expansion. The scope includes building the two new underground mines and related infrastructure. One of the key strategies for the project is the integration of information technology systems used in data-centric computing and operational technology to monitor events, processes, and activities. SEM-Hatch also delivered a fit-for-purpose Operation Management System for the development phase of the underground project.
Voisey’s Bay Mine is a multiple winner of the John T. Ryan Award recognising the safest mine performance in Canada – receiving the honor again in 2021. Faced with the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19, the Mine Expansion Project followed suit, reaching first ore production with zero lost time injuries since construction began in 2018.
Indigenous participation is another hallmark of the Voisey’s Bay operation. Vale is a proud local operator and enjoys a long and collaborative relationship with its Indigenous partners, Innu Nation & Nunatsiavut Government, on whose traditional lands the Voisey’s Bay Complex is located. “Since the Voisey’s Bay Mine Expansion Project began in 2018, Innu and Nunatsiavut Inuit employment has more than doubled to approximately 500 employees. A further 65% of all procurement contracts for the project were awarded to Indigenous-owned businesses. The ability to mine and process ore from underground will continue to generate local employment, procurement, capacity-building and shared benefit for many years to come.”
Ore produced at Voisey’s Bay is processed at Vale’s Long Harbour, Newfoundland hydrometallurgical facility, one of the world’s lowest emission nickel processing plants. The sustainably-produced, responsibly sourced nickel, copper and cobalt products produced at Long Harbour will help meet future customer demand in the electric vehicle and clean energy space as industry and the world seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower carbon footprints.
“Today’s announcement of first ore production heralds another step forward in the continued delivery of quality, predictable and responsibly sourced metals to market with safety, capacity-building and Indigenous participation at the forefront,” said Travers. “I couldn’t be more pleased or more proud for the future of our operations in Newfoundland and Labrador.”