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Vale is proposing a new nickel-copper-PGM mine in Sudbury that has the potential for a 10-year life with an estimated production of 5,000 tonnes per day, and a projected workforce of 500.
The Victor-Capre project, located 25 km northeast of Sudbury near the community of Skead, is comprised of two properties, Victor and Capre, which the company is looking to combine into one operation. The project, which is situated 2.5 km from Xstrata’s Nickel Rim South Mine, is currently in the pre-feasibility stage to determine the viability of an advanced exploration program. If the study results are favourable, advanced exploration development could begin as early as mid-2013.
“We have been doing exploration out here for quite a while, but now with copper prices the way they are and the outlook for copper quite positive, it makes the project more attractive,” said Angie Robson, manager of corporate affairs for Vale’s Ontario operations. “Vale as a whole wants to increase its copper output and so this is an important project for that.”
Vale has been quiet about the project until now, but provided details at an open house held at the Skead Community Centre on May 1.
The Victor Mine operated from 1959 to 1960, producing 134,000 tons of ore, averaging 1.4 per cent copper and 3 per cent nickel. Surface and deep exploration diamond drilling programs were conducted between 1973 and 1989, and the Victor 14FW zone was discovered in 1990. Exploration activities took place through the 1990s, but were halted due to poor economics at the time. No mining activities have occurred at the Capre site.
If the project is determined to be feasible, the operation will be combined so that the two ore bodies would be accessed through the Victor site, Robson said.
“We’re trying to limit the footprint to just the Victor property so that we would access the Capre ore bodies through the Victor property,” she said. “That’s to eliminate the environmental footprint and the potential impacts to the community.”
Robson said if the project goes ahead, it could have the single deepest lift shaft in North America at 8,000 feet, or the equivalent of five CN Towers.
Preliminary environmental testing has commenced, and the company has commissioned the Wahnapitae First Nation to do water sampling.
Glen Watson, Vale’s senior environmental specialist, said it’s still early to determine what will be required of the company to fulfill its environmental assessment (EA).
“The kind of things we’ve done so far is background work, going to the site so that we know what it’s like before we even put a shovel in the ground,” he said. “That includes surface water, groundwater, soil conditions, plant and animal life. So we characterize all that to begin with.”
More intensive environmental testing and screening will take place during the next planning phases, once the company has a better idea of what kind of operation it will have.
However, the mine will be unique in that there are no plans to store waste rock on site.
“We deal with a lot of legacy and historic issues at the old mine sites, mostly related to that kind of thing—the storage of waste rock and ore on the ground—whereas this facility is going to have lined pads,” Watson said. “It’s modern, so we’ll be a lot better off in that respect.”
Robson said input from the open house would be catalogued and considered as the company moves forward with the project, emphasizing that Vale wants to remain open to the community.
“Because of the mine’s close proximity (to the community) we want them to know that we are open to talk to them and listen to them, and we want to have a good relationship with them,” she said.