Vale’s massive Newfoundland nickel refinery takes shape – by Paul Brent (Canadian Mining Journal – September, 2011)

The Canadian Mining Journal is Canada’s first mining publication providing information on Canadian mining and exploration trends, technologies, operations, and industry events.

Vale Canada Ltd.’s $2.8-billion nickel processing facility at Long Harbour in Newfoundland will be a showcase for the mining giant’s newly developed hydrometallurgy refining technology when the plant is completed in early 2013.

Long Harbour, which will process 50,000 tons per year of nickel from the Voisey’s Bay concentrate deposit in Labrador, will operate much differently than traditional nickel processing facilities. The key difference is the use of hydrometallurgy or “hydromet” technology that utilizes a combination of water and oxygen under pressure to dissolve selected metals from the incoming concentrate.

“It is a process called POL, which means Pressure Oxidative Leaching,” says Rinaldo Stefan, who is project director of the Long Harbour processing plant.

For Vale, one of the big payoffs from the POL process is a significantly reduced sulphur dioxide footprint for the Long Harbour operation. As part of the traditional nickel refining process, sulphur is mixed with oxygen to be removed, captured and then converted into sulphuric acid to be disposed of.

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Are Ontario political party pronouncements echoing OMA’s vision for the future of mining?

This article was provided by the Ontario Mining Association (OMA), an organization that was established in 1920 to represent the mining industry of the province.

As we move closer to October 6 election day in Ontario, it is encouraging to see mining being part of the platform of all major parties.  Many of the topics and positions being presented by the Liberals, Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats seem to reflect the OMA’s plan for the future of mining in Ontario.  Last week, the OMA presented each party’s’ views on mining, however, the issues continue to develop.  The full text of the OMA’s vision for the future “Action Plan for Ontario: Taking Advantage of a Critical Window of Opportunity” can be found on the OMA website
The Liberal document “Plan for Northern Ontario” has a lot of mining content.   The OMA’s paper calls for “balancing conservation and development targets” and the establishment of a target for new mines in Ontario to demonstrate a commitment to the future success of the industry.  The Liberal platform says “at least six mines are reopening and four new mines are expected to open by the end of 2012 and we’ll open at least eight new mines in the next 10 years.” 

The OMA would like to see an engaged Ontario government working with the federal government, industry and First Nations to cut approval and permitting time lines in half.   While the Progressive Conservatives and NDP have supported permitting improvements, the Liberals have said “we’ll also work to ensure the federal government is at the table for Northern communities and First Nations in planning for smart development of the Ring of Fire. 

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For resource value, reject the helicopter model [Vale/Voisey Bay] – by Jim Stanford (Globe and Mail – May 30, 2011)

The Globe and Mail is Canada’s national newspaper with the second largest broadsheet circulation in the country. It has enormous impact and influence on Canada’s political and business elite as well as the rest of the country’s print, radio and television media.

Jim Stanford is an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers union.

Natural resources are increasingly central to Canada’s economic trajectory. Our challenge is to maximize the positive spinoffs from resource developments, while minimizing the economic and environmental costs. In that regard, imagine two extreme cases: one in which resource projects generate diversified and lasting benefits, and one in which they do not.

Consider the negative case first. Suppose a resource is discovered in a remote northern location. Using helicopters, a foreign-owned company flies in necessary capital equipment and supplies, even labour. The resource is transported to global markets, also using helicopters. The profits are exported to the foreign owner, and much of the spending on tools, supplies and specialized workers also leaves the country (since these have been imported). Canada’s GDP is boosted for a while (until the resource runs out), but much of that wealth never “touches down” here.

The opposite to this negative “helicopter” model is a strategy that maximizes Canadian participation in every phase of the development: exploration, investment, production, supply chain and transportation. This doesn’t happen automatically. It takes deliberate measures by the developer (prodded and assisted by government) to maximize lasting benefits to Canadians.

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May 26, 2011 – Vale has awarded a two-year $600 million contract to KBAC Constructors, a Kiewit – BMA – G.J. Cahill  Partnership to provide mechanical, piping, electrical and instrumentation services for the construction of the Long Harbour Processing Plant in Newfoundland and Labrador.

KBAC is a partnership of Peter Kiewit Infrastructure Co., BMA Constructors – a Black & McDonald-Alberici Joint Venture and G.J. Cahill & Company (1979) Limited. 

“The mechanical, piping, electrical and instrumentation services contract is the largest single contract that we have awarded to date on the Long Harbour construction project and one of the largest supplier contracts awarded at Vale,” said John Pollesel, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s Base Metals Business in North Atlantic. “The partners in the KBAC partnership have been working with us over the last year and we are very pleased to see them come together in a partnership to work on this part of the project.” 

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NEWS RELEASE: [Newfoundland and Labrador] Provincial Government Releases Phase Two Report from Voisey’s Bay Industrial Inquiry Commission

Human Resources, Labour and Employment

Report of the Industrial Inquiry Commission – Report No.2

Report of the Industrial Inquiry Commission – Report No.1 

May 11, 2011

The Honourable Darin King, Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment and Minister Responsible for the Labour Relations Agency, released the second and final report of the Voisey’s Bay Industrial Inquiry Commission today.

“On behalf of the Provincial Government, I want to thank the commission members for their work during the course of this inquiry and for the advice they have provided,” said Minister King. “Over the coming weeks and months we will review the report and consult with stakeholders. Our government recognizes the seriousness of this matter and the impact this strike has had on Newfoundland and Labrador. The appointment of an industrial inquiry demonstrated not only our commitment to supporting a resolution to the Voisey’s Bay strike, but also our commitment to maintaining positive labour management relations in this province.”

The report addresses factors which led to the existing labour-management relations climate at Voisey’s Bay and options to improve them; local, provincial, national or international matters that may have contributed to the dispute; impacts of the dispute on other labour-management relationships; and the ramifications of this dispute.

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What Newfoundland & Labrador can teach the rest of Canada about globalization [Vale strike] – by Armine Yalnizyan (The Progressive Economics Forum-May 20, 2011)

Armine Yalnizyan is a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The Progressive Economics Forum aims to promote the development of a progressive economics community in Canada. The PEF brings together over 125 progressive economists, working in universities, the labour movement, and activist research organizations.

“Vale can’t escape scrutiny. Look at what they do in Thompson. This will be looked
at around the world. A Zambian mining president during the strike in Sudbury said if
this is the way they treat people in the first world we don’t want Vale in Zambia, in the
third world.”  (Steve Ashton, MLA for Thompson, Manitoba

Last fall Premier Danny Williams wondered what could drive anyone to let hundreds of millions of dollars slip through their fingers. Last week he got his answer.

The Roil report on the 18-month strike at Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in northern Labrador is an eye-opening case study in 21st century globalization, and has the potential to be a game-changer. It is the final output of an industrial inquiry commission appointed by now-ex-Premier Williams in October 2010.

At that time about 240 United Steelworkers had been on strike against global mining giant Vale since August 2009, labour relations had become toxic, and Innu and Inuit communities finally poised to make economic gains had become tragically split down the middle.

The commissioners reported that Vale ultimately lost an estimated $500 million to $1 billion in operating revenues; the workers lost over $9 million in wages over 2009 and 2010; the union spent about $4 million in legal fees, staff supports and strike pay; and Newfoundland and Labrador’s GDP took at 1.4% hit in 2009, 2.6% in 2010.

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NEWS RELEASE (United Steelworkers): Voisey’s Bay Workers Ratify Five-Year Agreement

31 January 2011-Goose Bay, NL: Unionized workers at the Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Labrador have ratified a five-year collective agreement, ending a bitter, 18-month strike against Brazilian mining giant Vale.

Members of United Steelworkers Local 9508 voted 88% in favour of a tentative deal reached by their negotiating team and Vale representatives. Vote results were released today, following balloting in a number of communities over the last several days.

“Our members are returning to work with their heads held high,” said Steelworkers staff representative Boyd Bussey. “They stood up for their families and their communities and fought for what they believed in.”

“This labour dispute was unnecessarily provoked and prolonged by a giant multinational corporation,” said Wayne Fraser, Steelworkers District Director for Atlantic Canada and Ontario.

“Our members deserve to be proud for standing up to this foreign corporation and for finally achieving a fair deal,” Fraser said.

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NEWS RELEASE: Vale announces ratification of new collective agreement with mine and mill operations employees in Voisey’s Bay

January 31, 2011 – Vale is pleased to announce that a new five-year collective agreement has been ratified by the United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9508 representing mine and mill operations employees at Voisey’s Bay, Labrador. The settlement marks the end of the strike that began August 1, 2009.

Highlights of the new five-year agreement include improvements to employee wages and the Defined Contribution Pension Plan, a cost-of-living allowance roll-in and changes to the employee bonus program. The agreement also includes a special $2000 Return to Work payment and an additional $2000 Retention Bonus payable three months following ratification of the new Collective Agreement.

“We are very pleased that our mine and mill operations employees have ratified the new Collective Agreement and we look forward to their return to work and the resumption of normal operations,” said Tom Paddon, General Manager of Vale’s operations in Newfoundland and Labrador. “It has been a very long and challenging time for everyone involved and we are pleased that that the strike is finally behind us,” Paddon said.

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Vale Voisey’s Bay Workers Still On Strike – by Darren Cove, President, USW, Local 9508

Originally published August 2, 2010

Last week, Newfoundland and Labrador – and scores of our working families – were saddled with a dubious Canadian distinction, the result of a foreign corporation’s aggressive and unprecedented anti-labour agenda.

The mining strike at Voisey’s Bay, provoked last summer by Brazil-based corporate giant Vale, entered its second year on Sunday, Aug. 1. The strike has become the longest-ever labour dispute in the century-long history of former Inco Ltd. mining operations in Canada.

Perhaps most disturbing is the fact this dispute is being prolonged by Vale’s second-class treatment of Newfoundland and Labrador workers compared to Vale employees elsewhere in Canada.

Our union, United Steelworkers Local 9508, has offered to settle the Voisey’s Bay strike by accepting the same deal Vale reached last month with its employees in Ontario. But Vale is attempting to dictate that workers in our province — including many aboriginal employees — accept a lesser contract, with inferior bonuses and benefits, compared to the Ontario settlement.

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