Nickel Pig Iron Equals “Dirty Nickel” – Sudbury Nickel is Sustainable and Clean – Stan Sudol

Last Saturday’s (June 12, 2010) Globe and Mail’s Report on Business article on Nickel Pig Iron and its hyped headlines that inferred serious trouble for Sudbury, Canada’s largest nickel producing region was bit overblown. While the subject of Nickel Pig Iron has made a major impact in the global nickel markets, reporter Andy Hoffman had overlooked a few key issues that significantly downplay the impact of Nickel Pig Iron on the Sudbury Basin, which remains the richest mining region in North America and among the top ten most significant globally.

Nickel Pig Iron has been around for at least half a decade or longer. It will probably put a cap on the price of nickel though one very knowledgable source feels the $8.50 level mentioned in the Globe and Mail article is at the low end. When you factor in rising labour costs in China, the cost of power and the environmental impacts in the Philippines and Indonesia, the cost per pound is really in the $12.00 range.

I might add the Nickel Pig Iron is in reality “Dirty Nickel.” The processing of the material in blast furnaces in China is an environmental nightmare. In addition, the small companies that supply the material to China are probably not restoring the strip-mined jungle that is the source of this low grade nickel ore. Those are the companies that NGOs should be going after, not environmentally responsible corporations like Vale, Barrick, BHP-Billiton or Teck.

The high-quality pure nickel produced in the Sudbury Basin is done under strict first-world enviromental, health and safety standards. The rich Sudbury Basin ore also contains copper, gold, silver, platinum, cobalt and a few other metals. Nickel Pig Iron only gets cash credits for the iron content.

In addition, Nickel Pig Iron can only be used for low-end stainless steel products. Jet engines and many high-end industrial applications must use pure nickel to produce the specialized stainless steel and nickel-based super alloys for their applications.

And one more point, digging up vast tracks of virgin jungle and shipping this “low-grade nickel mud” to China adds very little sustainable value to the countries allowing this to happen, except to well-connected landowners or a few junior mining companies. As the world begins to understand the unsustainable mining practices that the production of Nickel Pig Iron entails, there may be more opposition to its use.

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[Vale Strike] In Sudbury it’s Restive, Not Festive – by Tony Van Alphen (Toronto Star-December 19, 2009)

Tony Van Alphen is a Business Reporter for the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion. This article was originally published on Saturday, December 19, 2009.

Workers’ mettle gets test as Vale Inco strike drags into bitter northern winter , It’s a war zone here. Their tactics are designed to provoke us like never before. They’re not interested in getting back to bargaining.

SUDBURY–Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” is blasting from a satellite radio in the tent’s makeshift living room.

A couple of plush La-Z-Boy rockers and a couch surround a blazing wood stove. The fresh Christmas tree in the corner gives the place a cozy holiday feeling.

Three hearty men in heavy overcoats and toques hover around the stove, slap their gloves and exchange brotherly greetings. The song ends and they step outside into another world.

There’s not a lot of love or warmth there. They’re on the picket line just after sunrise a few days before Christmas at Vale Inco’s Clarabelle Mill.

It’s a flashpoint in the five-month standoff between some 3,100 workers and one of the world’s biggest mining companies.

The workers face a bitter wind, -20C temperatures and a company spending millions of dollars to keep them in line. Strikers walk the line and delay trucks and cars for 12 to 15 minutes before allowing them through to the sprawling mill up the road. Then, they walk some more.

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Vale Inco’s Bottom Line – How Much Does it Cost to Produce a Pound of Nickel in Sudbury, Canada? – by Kelly Louiseize

This article was orginally published in Northern Ontario Business on March 18, 2010. Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investers with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

Differing opinions on Sudbury’s costs

When Brazil’s Vale SA snapped up Inco for $19 billion in 2006, there was plenty of buzz as to what the mining giant would do with the 107-year old Canadian miner.

Traumatic restructuring fears were quickly put to rest by Murilo Ferreira, the Brazilian in charge of the nickel division who spoke at a Sudbury luncheon. He said there would be very little change with this “successful company.”

Less than a year later, Ferreira stepped down and was replaced by Tito Martins, a former Vale communications executive who together with CEO Roger Agnelli began a series of strategies to make Sudbury more globally competitive.

Agnelli stated that based on current price levels the Sudbury operations was one of the “highest cost operations” Vale Inco owns.

Change was needed to make Sudbury more sustainable.

Productivity and bonuses were red-flagged five years ago when Mark Cutifani was the helmsman at Inco Ltd. Under his direction the intent was to increase productivity by 30 per cent and take another look at the nickel bonus when negotiations came around.

“We knew we all had to work together,” Cutifani said in a phone interview with Northern Ontario Business this past month.

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A Breakthrough in China, [Nickel Pig Iron] Another Blow for Sudbury – by Andy Hoffman (Globe and Mail-June 15, 2010)

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.

This article was the cover story of the Saturday, June 12, 2010 edition of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business section.

No longer just a low-wage workshop, China is reshaping world markets through innovation – including a revolutionary alloy that takes aim at Canada’s nickel belt

Andy Hoffman, Asia-Pacific Reporter – Xuzhou, China

Ask Li Guang about the prospects for his business and a self-assured grin creeps across the young executive’s face. It’s a smile that means trouble for Canada’s nickel-mining capital of Sudbury, Ont., more than 11,000 kilometres away from Mr. Li’s office in eastern China .

“Our production has quite a lot of advantages compared to refined nickel,” says the budding metals titan, who is all of 30 years old and dressed in a short-sleeve dress shirt and black jeans. “Now, in China, many other enterprises are going to enter this market. Gradually they will take over a lot of the share of refined nickel.”

Mr. Li and his company, Jiangsu Mingzhu, are among the many Chinese manufacturers churning out a revolutionary product known as nickel pig iron or NPI. Despite its prosaic name, the alloy has set the global nickel industry on its ear by providing a low-cost alternative to the refined nickel that has typically been used to make stainless steel. Cheap NPI threatens to squelch demand for the refined metal, which is produced in places like Sudbury, as well as in Russia and Australia.

In less than five years, NPI has reshaped the world nickel industry, marking a new stage in China’s capitalist evolution. Since it opened itself to trade in the late 1970s, the Asian nation has become famous for two things – lowering the price of manufactured products with its cheap labour costs, and driving up the price of commodities with its aggressive demand. Now it is altering the fundamentals of a vital industrial sector with a homespun innovation.

NPI, a material produced in low-tech Chinese factories, already accounts for as much as 10 per cent of the world’s $21-billion-a-year nickel market, more than all the nickel that can be produced annually in Sudbury. Some analysts expect China’s NPI producers to double their output this year.

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Coal Mining Ravages Appalachia Mountains – by Catherine Porter (Toronto Star-February 23, 2008)

Catherine Porter is a columnist for the Toronto Star, which has the largest circulation in Canada. The paper has an enormous impact on Canada’s federal and provincial politics as well as shaping public opinion. This article was originally published on Saturday, February 23, 2008.

They’re ripping the tops off mountains in West Virginia coal country to feed our insatiable appetite for power. It’s cheaper that way. And the trees and the animals and the flooding? It may not be pretty, but we’ve got all those dishwashers to run

CHARLESTON, WEST VIRGINIA–When you flick on the lights this evening, think of Kayford Mountain. Or what was Kayford Mountain, but now is a sprawling, muddy, trembling construction site 100 metres below Larry Gibson’s home.

Three years ago, Gibson hunted wild boar here, picked gooseberries and peaches, and sat under the shade of white oaks and hickories so thick he couldn’t see the sky.
“Now, you can see the sky below your feet,” Gibson says.

The boars have long scurried away. The trees have been reduced to a heap of pulp. The gooseberries have been bulldozed, replaced by rows of explosives. Just past the “Do Not Enter” sign, the mountain has been brought to its knees – cut down like a giant tree. Instead of gazing 200 metres up to its peak, as Gibson once did, you peer down at its rubbly remains, clawed at by giant shovels and trundled off by bucking yellow dump trucks.

There are no birdsong or rustling leaves – just beeping and grinding, and sounds like a 747 taking off.

A small sliver of the former mountain slumps to one side of the construction, like the last piece of Black Forest cake left amid the deflated balloons and streamers. On top are the trees and soil, then sandstone and shale, and at the bottom, a thick chocolate layer – coal.

“They say they can make the land better than it originally was,” says Chuck Nelson, gazing down sorrowfully from his friend’s property, hands in his pockets. “Who can do a better job than God? This land will never be no good for nothing.”

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‘Kill the Avatar Bill!’ (Canada’s Anti-Mining Bill C-300) – by National Post Editor Peter Foster

This opinion piece was published in the National Post, Canada’s second largest national paper on March 09, 2010,

If passed, Bill C-300 would open up Canadian companies to attacks by those who believe mining should stop

“Kill the Avatar bill!”

That’s the cry at this week’s annual meeting of the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada in Toronto. Not quite in those words, mind you, but the private member’s bill in question, C-300, is based on the same lurid anti-capitalist, anti-mining fantasies that provided the psychic substructure for James Cameron’s mega-grossing but Oscar-short movie.

Activists last week bought an ad in Hollywood organ Variety to suggest analogies between oilsands development and the sci-fi epic’s tale of interplanetary resource rape and alien cultural genocide. So far, C-300’s supporters don’t seem to have followed that tack, but then perhaps that’s because they include the Catholic Church, which has condemned Avatar for its mystic eco-mumbo jumbo (I know. Pot. Kettle. Etc.)

This week, the PDAC opened a campaign to bombard MPs with letters opposing this potentially disastrous piece of legislation. The real wonder is that the bill, which was proposed by Liberal MP and NGO stooge John McKay, is still alive. In fact, having survived prorogation, it seems to stand little chance of passing a third reading, but then it was never expected to pass a second reading.

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Barrick Gold’s Tanzanian Corporate Social Responsibility: The Lake Zone Health Initiative






Barrick's Lake Zone Health Initiative in Tanzania
Barrick's Lake Zone Health Initiative in Tanzania

 This article is from the April 2010 issue of Beyond Borders: A Barrick Gold Report on Responsible Mining. The Lake Zone Health Initiative was established by Barrick to help combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and improve access to health services for underserved populations. This collaborative effort involves the Tanzanian government, aid agencies and other partners.

They are called the Big Three. They are HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. Together, they kill thousands of people each year in Tanzania.

These life-threatening diseases pose a serious risk to employees in the mining sector and communities near mining operations, resulting in soaring health care costs and a high rate of employee absenteeism.

Building on a long history of providing successful disease prevention programs in Tanzania, in 2008 Barrick launched the Lake Zone Health Initiative in an effort to improve health services to underserved populations in the Lake Zone region. Home to nine million residents, Tanzania’s Lake Zone wraps around Lake Victoria and spans seven regions, including the Mara and Kahama districts where the Bulyanhulu, Buzwagi and North Mara mines are located. While these mines are now operated by African Barrick Gold, the new public company created by Barrick earlier this year, the commitment to continue this flagship community health program remains as strong as ever.

The public-private sector health initiative is making it possible for companies, the government, health NGOs and donors like USAID to work collaboratively together to combat HIV, malaria and TB.

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Canada’s Very Flawed Bill C-300 Anti-Mining Legislation Should be Withdrawn – by Gary Nash

Gary Nash is a former Assistant Deputy Minister at Natural Resources Canada and former CEO of the International Council on Metals and the Environment. His remarks were made recently to a Parliamentary committee during hearings on Bill C-300. He may be reached at 613-748-0142 or

The purpose of Bill C-300 is “to ensure that companies engaged in mining, oil or gas activities and receiving support from the government of Canada act in a manner consistent with international environmental best practices and with Canada’s commitments to international human rights standards.”

Provisions in the bill allow any person anywhere to register a complaint with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and International Trade against a Canadian company that may not have adhered to various international human rights and environmental norms, principles, conventions or standards in a developing country.

Ministers, in turn, will then consider and possibly examine the complaint to decide within eight months whether the complaint is valid or if the complaint is frivolous. In either case, ministers will publish the results of their decisions in the Canada Gazette (not exactly a widely publically read document in Canada or abroad).

The sanctions to be applied against a guilty company are the withdrawal of any support for the project in question given by Export Development Canada (EDC) as well as a withdrawal or avoidance of any investment by the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) in the shares of the company.

While few would dispute that the intent of the bill is laudable, its enactment will create very serious issues for federal governments in Canada and indeed will diminish the contribution to Canada from overseas investment by our mining industry.

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“The Great Canadian Mining Disaster” -by Jacquie McNish (November 25, 2006) – Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Inco Mining Story

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.

This article was the cover story of the Saturday, November 25, 2006 edition of the Globe and Mail’s Report on Business Section. Jacquie McNish’s 16,000-word article on the failed Inco/Falconbridge merger has become the definitive account of this Canadian business tragedy.


Scott Hand had a dream, to keep Inco Ltd. in Canadian hands. But he didn’t count on corporate betrayal, political apathy, a new bread of shareholders, and a lack of boardroom bravado


The horizon clears

Inco sees its future

After days of murky weather, a wool fog lifted off central Labrador, revealing the bald rugged terrain explorer Jacques Cartier dismissed as “the land God gave to Cain.” The momentary clearing allowed a clutch of travellers to dash to two turbo props marooned at Happy Valley Goose Bay airport.

These were no ordinary tourists. Leading the parka-clad pack was Scott Hand, patrician chief executive officer of the world’s second-largest nickel producer, Inco Ltd. Behind him, eager to explore Cain, were an elite corps of international executives. Rick Waugh, CEO of Bank of Nova Scotia, a man who is gobbling up more Latin American banks than Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was here. So was David O’Brien, chairman of EnCana Corp. and Royal Bank of Canada. Joining them were Glen Barton, retired chief of Illinois’ Caterpillar Inc.; John Mayberry, onetime CEO of Hamilton steel maker Dofasco Inc.; and Francis Mer, retired boss of European steel maker Arcelor SA and a former finance minister of France. Inco directors one and all, they scrambled to the Dash 8s under an uncertain sky to see for themselves the 21st century’s first great mining startup: Voisey’s Bay.

Mr. Hand, however, wanted his directors to see more than a prosperous mine on the afternoon of Sept. 20, 2005. Although Inco was still digesting the $4-billion, 1996 purchase of Voisey’s Bay, he believed it was time to deal again. Rival Falconbridge Ltd. was in play, presenting Inco with an opportunity to forge a global powerhouse by bringing some of the world’s richest copper and nickel deposits under one corporate entity.

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Building The Growth Plan For Northern Ontario – by Honourable Michael Gravelle, Ontario Minister of Northern Development, Mines and Forestry

Important steps are being taken as we work to finalize the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario.

Since the proposed plan was released last October, it has generated close to 300 submissions from individuals, municipalities, educational institutions, industry and community organizations across Northern Ontario.  More than 1,400 northerners participated in 10 public information sessions, and more than 40 videoconferences, meetings and workshops. Many groups organized special meetings to bring together communities and individuals from across sectors to discuss their input.             

As part of our government’s efforts to consult with Aboriginal peoples, 10 regional workshops were held and more than 260 people from First Nations, Métis and Aboriginal organizations reviewed the proposed plan and provided input. We also met with more than 130 northern youth including high school, college and university students, and young professionals building their careers in the North.

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December 8, 1927 Speech to the Empire Club by the Honourable William Finlayson, Ontario Minister of Lands and Forests about Northern Ontario’s Vast Potenial

The Empire Club of Canada, established in 1903, in Toronto is recognized as one of Canada’s oldest and largest speakers’ forums with a membership comprised of some of Canada’s most influential leaders from the professions, business, labour, education and government. Over its history it has been addressed by more than 3500 prominent Canadian and international leaders – men and women who have distinguished themselves in many fields of endeavour.

The Empire Club’s luncheon meetings attract audiences of 200 to 1,000 and usually take place on Thursdays at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel from September through June. Consult their events page for a detailed listing of this year’s events and links to their reservation forms. The addresses are broadcast on Rogers Television and many attract newspaper reports and editorial comment.

Honourable William Finlayson, Ontario Minister of Lands and Forests, Toronto, Ontario – December 8, 1927

The Vice-President introduced the speaker, who was received with loud applause. He said: “It is a pleasure to come to Southern Ontario and talk about Northern Ontario, because the people here are prepared to support any legislation properly designed to develop the North country”; yet I do so with a good deal of hesitation, because I see so many people here who have done far more work in Northern Ontario than I have been able to accomplish.

I see here Sir William Hearst, who knows Northern Ontario not only from the administrative standpoint, but from having lived there and helped to develop one of its important centres. Other men here have done perservering and effective work for the north country, men like Mr. Stapells and Mr. Gibbons, who are prepared to devote not only personal energy but business organization to assist in particular enterprises we may have in view up there.

The people of Toronto and all Southern Ontario think that civilization entered Ontario from the south, and that Cataraqui and Kingston are the oldest centres of civilization in this province; others say that Niagara was the birthplace of Ontario; while people in Toronto the “Meeting Place”-seem to think that civilization and romance and enterprise began here and spread through the province. But I would like to tell the people of Toronto at once, plainly and somewhat bluntly, that those ideas are all erroneous, and that the north, which is not only the source of present wealth but the hope for the future of Ontario, is the place where civilization and enterprise and business entered this province. Let me briefly prove this proposition.

Civilization entered Ontario in August 1615, when Father Recollet went up the Ottawa River, crossed Nipissing, and came down the French River and Georgian Bay. He was followed shortly after by the great Champlain.

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Mining Accidents Do, and Will Continue to Happen – by Russell Noble

Russell Noble is the editor of the Canadian Mining Journal, Canada’s first mining publication. This editorial is from the May, 2010 issue.

Accidents but worst of all, deaths have been associated with mining ever since the Stone Age so I’m not surprised when I hear of people getting hurt or even killed by rocks.

Given they are harder than humans in their natural makeup, it’s no wonder that people nearly always come out second when rocks decide to fight back. Even “hard-as-rock” individuals are no match for their namesakes.

Cave-ins, slides, or even chips flying from the blow of a hammer or shrapnel from an unplanned explosion usually results in injuries or worse and as we all know, the latter has made too many headlines lately.

China’s Wangjianling coal mine in Xiangning, Barrick’s Bulyanhulu gold mine in Tanzania and most recently Massey Energy’s disaster in West Virginia are just few examples of what I’m talking about and being realistic about it all, similar occurrences will happen again, and again, and again.

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The HR Challenge for Mining Sector in Aboriginal Territories – by Juan Carlos Reyes

Juan Carlos Reyes is the organizer of the annual Learning Together conference and an aboriginal consultant with He is passionate about human rights and works tirelessly to help improve the lives of Canadian aboriginal people. This column was originally published in 2009.

Given that Aboriginal communities have the fastest growing youth demographic in Canada and that most new exploration and mining developments are near Aboriginal communities, it makes sense for the shortage of workers in the mining industry to be offset by the recruitment of these youth. But the reality seems to be quite different. Far too few Aboriginal youth are entering the mining industry. Unless we do something about it, this trend will continue and they will continue to be under-represented in the industry.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of a ghost town — a community that has been virtually abandoned by human inhabitants — usually because of the failure of economic activities that supported the town. Due to the cyclical nature of the minerals industry and the fact that mining exploits non-renewable resources, mines are notorious for leaving ghost towns in their wake. Why is this relevant to this article? It is because most First Nations communities would be ghost towns without government assistance provided to support the membership.
Most remote First Nations have an extraordinarily high unemployment rate — some even as high as 90 per cent. Although there are many candidates for potential work, there is no industry to provide the much-needed employment. Community members are trapped in these virtual ghost towns with no potential or hope for change. But even if an “employment fairy” was to appear in such a community and magically create opportunity for everyone, this would not solve the problem. There are generations of potential employees who have not acquired the basic skills that are expected of today’s workers. For most Aboriginal people, the integration curve into the mainstream employment world is therefore very steep.

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Ring of Fire Mine, Railway Will Bring Economic Development to Northern Ontario and Aboriginal Communities – by Ian Ross

This article was orginally published in Northern Ontario Business on December 23, 2009. Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investors with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

For an extensive list of articles on this mineral discovery, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery

Bob Middleton likens the discovery of chromite in the James Bay Lowlands to the 1903 Cobalt silver discovery that opened up Northern Ontario and created the great mining camps of Timmins and Kirkland Lake.

The potential impact of a massive open-pit mine, ore processing facilities and a railway into McFauld’s Lake, as proposed by Cliffs Natural Recources, will be a life-style changer for many living in remote First Nation communities, said the exploration industry veteran.

“It’s going to change the economy of this whole region,” said Middleton, director of Aboriginal and regulatory affairs with Canada Chrome Corp.
Cliffs’ $240 million stock offer to Freewest Resources, which together with KWG and Spider Resources, found some of the richest chromite deposits in the world, will be voted on by Freewest shareholders in January. The Freewest board is recommending approval of the Cliffs offer.

Middleton outlined his company’s role in a high-grade chromite resource in the area now called the Ring of Fire during a presentation at the Ontario Exploration and Geoscience Symposium, Dec. 16, 2009 in Sudbury.

Canada Chrome is a subsidiary of KWG Resources Inc., one of the companies involved in the $1.5 billion development, which includes an $800-million mine scheduled to go into production by 2015.

Cleveland, Ohio-based Cliffs, a global iron ore pellet and coal producer and an established industrial railway builder, is expanding into the stainless steel market with the development of North America’s first chromite mine.

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Rails to Riches in the Ring of Fire – by Edgar J. Lavoie

This article was orginally published in Northern Ontario Business on April 19, 2010. Established in 1980, Northern Ontario Business provides Canadians and international investers with relevant, current and insightful editorial content and business news information about Ontario’s vibrant and resource-rich North.

For an extensive list of articles on this mineral discovery, please go to: Ontario’s Ring of Fire Mineral Discovery

A man from North Carolina is standing on the north bank of the frozen Ogoki River in Northern Ontario. His job is to find bedrock that could support a bridge foundation for a Class 3 heavy-haul railway. The railway, currently under feasibility review, would transport 4 million tonnes of chromite every year from the Ring of Fire to the CN mainline near Nakina.

On Feb. 19, Colin Langford, geologist, is overdressed for the weather -2C. The sun is shining, the sky is clear. As the crew extracts two-inch rock core from the drill hole, Langford identifies the rock. “Granite,” he says. Good solid stuff.

Matthew Krzewinski, field program manager for Golder Associates, has dropped from the sky to check on the work. A helicopter is the transport of choice in this country. The company is performing geotechnical drilling on the proposed route.

Only a third of the 340-kilometre route runs through the rock, sand, and gravel of the Canadian Shield. The James Bay Lowlands, in which the Big Daddy chromite discovery is located, is wet – a wilderness of lakes and bogs. KWG Resources Inc. (TSX-V: KWG), in joint venture with Spider Resources Inc. (TSX-V: SPQ), created a subsidiary to do feasibility studies for a railway. In turn, Canada Chrome Corp. engaged Krech Ojard & Associates, PA, of Duluth, who hired Golder Associates, also of Duluth, with support from offices throughout Canada and the USA.

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