A proposed $1 billion investment in Vale’s Thompson mines in the next five years could generate nearly $8 billion in economic activity over the next 45 years, the company’s head of Manitoba Operations told the Thompson Chamber of Commerce Nov. 13.
“What we’re looking at is exploring our ore bodies,” said Gary Eyres, estimating that the proposed investment would be equivalent to opening a new mine in Thompson and saying that it is possible another mine shaft could be excavated down to as far as 6,300 feet. Right now, mining areas extend down to 4,800 feet below the surface. “We haven’t found the end of the ore body yet. Somewhere close by, I believe, is the next Thompson mine.”
If the investment goes ahead, it would result in $7.9 billion worth of economic activity between now and 2065, $7.4 billion more than putting the mines on care and maintenance until 2043 would create. It’s also $5.4 billion more economic activity than would be generated by simply mining out the current areas of T1 and T3 by 2043.
Vale has just started an aerial survey of the Thompson Nickel Belt in hopes of validating some of the signs that exploration activities have turned up. Right now, Vale Manitoba Operations has about 30 fewer employees than it wants, Eyres says, and there are no plans to cut any more jobs. The reason some jobs haven’t been filled, he said, is because the mining industry around the world is short of skilled workers and that makes it difficult to get people to come to Thompson.
The key to convincing Vale management to invest more in Thompson mines is finding an area with 20,000 or more tonnes of nickel waiting to be mined. The company is also trying to increase the nickel in the concentrate it produces from 14 per cent to 18 per cent so that Vale smelting and refining operations in Ontario and Newfoundland can turn it into 99.9 per cent pure nickel like that which used to be produced in Thompson before the smelter and refinery were permanently closed in 2018.