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Nickle processing plant construction proceeds at Sandy Pond

The St. John’s Telegram reported on Friday that, “For the first time since construction began last spring, Vale Inco invited the media to tour the future site Thursday of its hydromet nickel processing plant.”

The Brazilian mining company has contracted the Texas-based company Fluor to manage the engineering and construction of this plant.

The plant being built at Long Harbour, at Placentia Bay, will process nickel from Voisey’s Bay and dump approximately 400,000 tonnes of tailings annually in nearby Sandy Pond, a 38-hectare freshwater lake.

The Telegram reports that, “On a plateau above the harbour, the earth is slowly being transformed by a legion of excavators, dump trucks, dozers and explosives experts. It’s all in preparation for the construction of a first-of-its-kind processing plant. When completed in 2013, the plant will use a hydromet process to produce nickel, copper and cobalt from concentrate mined at the company’s mine in Voisey’s Bay, Labrador.”

In January, The Telegram reported that, “The project’s massive footprint has forced a change in the traditional activities of some area residents, and longtime-hunting, fishing and camping areas are now off limits.”

In this article, the newspaper reports uncritically that, “To steward the environment (Vale Inco has) a plan in place to replace the fish habitat that will be destroyed by using Sandy Pond as a dumpsite for plant residue.”

“It’s one of the largest construction projects underway in Eastern Canada, and is expected to intensify in a major way this spring. …The priority to this point has been civil work, including the construction of roads, stream crossings and preparing the plant site. …But company officials are finding out construction work on the Avalon Peninsula is never easy, and sometimes full of surprises. The amount of bog and unsuitable ground is far higher than anticipated, and a third quarry had to be activated at the site in order to supply the required amount of crushed rock.” They have also had to deal with “ground saturated by unusually high amounts of rain.”

Jeff Collins, a columnist with the Placentia Charter, has also noted that, “Over 8,200 vessels a year, on average, transit the waters of Placentia Bay. Of that number, there are nearly 1,300 oil tankers carrying some 322 million barrels of oil.” Collins adds that, “the soon to be completed Vale Inco hydromet plant in Long Harbour (will add) its own corresponding ship activity.” This is the area that Transport Canada has identified as the “most probable” area for an oil spill in all of Canada.

To see the Council of Canadians action alert ‘Save Newfoundland’s Sandy Pond’, go to http://canadians.org/action/2008/11-Jul-08.html.

To see the Business Journal report on the Council of Canadians visiting Sandy Pond in May 2009, go to http://www.dailybusinessbuzz.ca/2009/05/20/nl-vale-inco-plans-for-sandy-pond-upset-council-of-canadians-cupe/.

The Canada Gazette notice exempting Sandy Pond from the Navigable Waters Protection Act is at http://www.gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p2/2009/2009-07-08/html/sor-dors202-eng.html.

The Telegram article is at http://www.thetelegram.com/index.cfm?sid=324513&sc=82.