In September, 1993, prospectors exploring northern Labrador for diamonds discovered the Voisey's Bay nickel deposit in Labrador. It lies on the eastern edge of a vast expanse of northern wilderness, 350 km north of Happy Valley-Goose Bay. In 1996, Vale Ltd. acquired the rights to the Voisey's Bay property.
The Voisey’s Bay development consists of three major components: an integrated mine and concentrator at the Voisey’s Bay site in Labrador that will process ore from the Voisey’s Bay deposit; a demonstration hydrometallurgical plant in Argentia to confirm the technological and commercial application of hydrometallurgical technology for Voisey's Bay concentrate; and a processing facility. Construction of the mine and concentrator is complete and mining activity is underway. Vale began processing its first ore in August 2005. Construction of the hydromet demonstration plant was completed in October 2005 and the final phase of the R&D program was completed and the demonstration plant closed in June 2008.
Following the completion of the R&D program, Vale began construction of a processing facility at Long Harbour, Newfoundland that will produce finished nickel product. This facility will cost in the order of US$2.8 billion and during operations employ about 475 people. Construction of the Long Harbour Processing Plant is expected to generate approximately 5,750 person-years of employment.
Vale registered the processing plant for environmental assessment in March 2006 (click here to view), submitted an Environmental Impact Statement in April 2008 and was released from environmental assessment by the federal government (July 2008) and by the provincial government (August 2008). Initial construction of the processing plant began in April 2009 with construction wrapping up in 2013.
In addition to the mine and concentrator and the processing plant, Vale has committed Cdn$20 million to the establishment and operation of an Innovation Centre in St. John’s in conjunction with Memorial University. The Vale Innovation Center was officially opened on September 20, 2005.
An integral part of this commitment involves utilizing appropriate initiatives regarding the participation of Innu and Inuit people in our activities in Labrador. Since the Voisey's Bay property is located in an area subject to land claims by both Innu Nation and the Nunatsiavut Government, we have negotiated separate Impacts and Benefits Agreements (IBA) with these two groups. Through the IBAs we have established specific employment objectives for Innu and Inuit and we have identified specific opportunities and joint-ventures.
At present, the Voisey's Bay development has an estimated project life of about 30 years. It is our hope that through further exploration we can increase our mineral reserves at Voisey's Bay and operate both the mine and concentrator and the Long Harbour Processing Plant well into the future.