Staying the course [Vale’s Sudbury investments] – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – August 10, 2011)

The Sudbury Star, the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper. hcarmichael@thesudburystar.com

“There is no doubt we have one of the best mining supply and service sectors here today. … Having one of this level in our backyard gives us a significant advantage, especially when
circumstances require us to be nimble. … We will have a new copper strategy to respond
to increasing global demand in foreign countries. … Sudbury will play a pivotal role, including the Victor and Capre properties …” (Steve Wood – Vale Vice-president Mining and Milling North Atlantic Operations, August 9, 2011)

The turmoil in the markets in recent days and the debt crisis in the United States won’t derail Vale’s plans for its Greater Sudbury operations, a senior company official said Tuesday. “We are staying the course,” Steve Wood told members of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply & Service Association at the group’s monthly meeting Tuesday. “We have our vision to be the biggest and the best (global mining company) and these projects have built up well situationally, as well.

“We don’t see any changes.” Wood is Vale’s vice-president of mining and milling for its North Atlantic operations. A Greater Sudbury native, Wood provided a 20-minute update of the global mining company’s plans for its Greater Sudbury operations.

In a scrum with reporters following his presentation, Wood reiterated that the bad economic news won’t affect the company’s Greater Sudbury operations or planned projects.

“Right now, our plans haven’t changed here in Greater Sudbury,” he said. “It’s too early in this set of events to speculate on that.”

Wood updated the association’s membership on Vale’s ambitious $3.4-billion upgrading and environmental projects planned for its Greater Sudbury operations over the next five years, including improvements to the Copper Cliff Smelter that will see 80% of the sulphur-dioxide now being emitted eliminated.

A $200-million Challenging Ore Recovery (CORe) flotation project at the Clarabelle Mill, which will recover more metals Vale processes, is already underway.

Wood said those plans “bode well” for both Greater Su dbury’s long-term future and the local supply and service sector.

“This is significant good news for Sudbury’s economy, and especially for the members of the Sudbury mining supply and service sector,” he said.

He said that in 2009 and 2010, 90% of the mining supply and service purchases for Vale’s Greater Sudbury operations came from Ontario, a total of $384 million and $471 million being spent respectively.

In the first six months of 2011, noted Wood, those purchases for the Sudbury operations had already reached the 2009 total.

“That number is truly staggering,” he said. “There is no doubt we have one of the best mining supply and service sectors here today,” he said. “Having one of this level in our backyard gives us a significant advantage, especially when circumstances require us to be nimble.

“For you, this definitely translates into great opportunity. I mean it when I say we can’t be successful without you, the (Sudbury Area Mining Supply & Service Association) members.”

Along with touching on plans to open Totten Mine, the company’s first new mine locally in 40 years — which will employ about 130 — Wood also surprised some by noting that Vale will shift back to a focus on both copper and nickel, from primarily nickel.

“We will have a new copper strategy to respond to increasing global demand in foreign countries,” he said. “Sudbury will play a pivotal role, including the Victor and Capre properties in Sudbury …

“It is not going to displace nickel. It’s not an either/or. Given the growth of these countries — Brazil, China, India and Russia — there’s more need to build infrastructure. We are growing our copper production around the world.

“Victor and Capre are places that have some potential for us. The best place to find ore is where you have already found some. We believe there’s still quite a bit here.”

Copper produced at Vale’s local operations is sold as concentrate to other mining companies. “Our plan is to continue to produce the copper (concentrate),” Wood said. “And it allows us to produce our nickel better. It doesn’t mean we are not going to produce copper.”

When asked where he thought world demand for nickel was headed, Wood said he saw rong need for it.

“We see the demand for nickel continuing to grow as some countries like Brazil, Russia, India and China continue to build their infrastructure,” he said.

“There will be some bumps along the way. (But) we see supply as tight.”

Wood added the company’s $2-billion Clean AER project at the smelter will “result in cleaner air for the community and significant economic spin-offs for Northern Ontario.”

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