The Superstack, which has dominated the Sudbury skyline since 1970, will soon be no more.
Vale announced plans Tuesday to decommission the iconic smokestack, which rises some 381 metres from the company’s smelter in Copper Cliff, by 2020. The Superstack will be replaced by two smaller and more efficient stacks, about 137 metres each, and eventually torn down.
“This certainly marks an end of an era and a new chapter in our journey as a responsible and sustainable operation,” said Stuart Harshaw, vice-president of Vale’s Ontario operations, during a press conference at Dynamic Earth on Tuesday.
“This is very historic for our operations and for Sudbury. We know a lot of people view the stack as an icon, something you see coming over the hill or coming up from the south. There’s a lot of interest in this from that perspective, but taking it out of service, from my point of view and what should be our point of view, is a sign of just how far we have come from an environmental perspective.”
Due to Vale’s emission reductions through its Clean AER Project, a $1-billion retrofit of smelter operations in the Sudbury area, the giant stack is no longer needed to carry pollutants away from the city. In fact, it takes a great deal of energy from large fans to move emissions up and out of the stack, as well as natural gas to heat them so they don’t simply drift down the sides.
The stack costs $3-5 million to maintain annually, according to Vale.
With new smaller stacks, Vale said, greenhouse gas emissions will be cut by about 40 per cent by the time the project is complete. Natural gas consumption is estimated to drop by nearly half – enough for the fuel requirements of some 17,500 homes, or one third of households in Greater Sudbury.
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