Ontario Premier Doug Ford said today he was impressed that mining giant Vale has spent $945 million to bring an old mine "back to life," saying the project was a key part of the province’s critical minerals strategy.
The premier was in Sudbury for the official opening of the Phase 1 expansion to Vale’s Copper Cliff Complex South Mine, a project that connected the South Mine operation to the North Mine creating the new Copper Cliff Mine Complex.
Ford said it was "a fabulous day" for the company and the mining community, and mining families in Sudbury. He added it was a good thing for the province of Ontario as well.
"This is a big win for the people of Sudbury and for workers across the province, as it continues to strengthen Ontario's mining manufacturing supply chain from north to south," Ford said.
He reminded the audience of mining executives, politicians, local Indigenous leaders and union representatives that Ontario's critical mineral strategy, announced in Thunder Bay earlier this year, is like no other in the world.
"It was the first of its kind, and will develop a made-in-Ontario electric vehicle supply chain. And there's nowhere else in the world that can do this, connecting our Northern Ontario mineral resources, with southern Ontario's manufacturing excellence," said the premier.
Also on hand for the event was Ontario Mines Minister George Pirie. Echoing the premier on the importance of Ontario’s critical minerals strategy, Pirie said Canada will not be able to achieve a carbon neutral society without the mining industry.
As the push to end greenhouse gas emissions heats up, Ontario’s critical minerals strategy is the plan to develop and mine for the minerals needed to power that shift away from fossil-fuel energy. Battery-electric vehicles for domestic automobiles and for mining machinery are prime examples of that, and nickel and other minerals are absolutely critical for battery production.
Pirie said Canada's goal to “decarbonize” society cannot happen without mining, while doing so in ways that are environmentally friendly, First Nations friendly and economically sustainable. He also praised Vale for the $945-million Phase 1 expansion of the South Mine which, saying the venture will enhance the company's supply of what is being termed “low-carbon nickel.”
"The materials that we're mining here in Copper Cliff are nickel and copper and cobalt; absolutely critical minerals if we're going to achieve that revolution in our economy and it's happening right here in Sudbury," the mines minister said.
Pirie said Sudbury is leading the way for mining and will "lead the charge" for sustainable and environmentally sound mining in the future.
"We are the leaders," Pirie said. "We produce over $11 billion worth of economic values from mining."
Pirie also highlighted Vale’s, and before that Inco’s, participation in and support for the Nickel City’s massive regreening effort, as well as ongoing environmentals efforts to reduce emissions of CO2 and sulphuric acid.
"And that speaks to sustainability,” he said. “And sustainable development, as you know, is development that meets the needs of the current citizens without compromising their ability to meet the needs of the future generations."
Deshnee Naidoo, Vale’s executive vice-president of base metals, said the new initiative enhances Vale's supply of low-carbon nickel and adds to the long-term sustainability of the Sudbury region.
She spoke about the importance of the investment in Sudbury.
"So the first phase of this project represents an investment, as you will hear many of us say, of nearly a billion Canadian dollars in our Sudbury operations, and which we see as a critical link in enhancing our supply of low-carbon nickel," Naidoo said.
"With the nickel that we produce out of this mine and many of our other mines in Sudbury, it goes straight into and it will go straight into nickel sulfate and into the EVs (electric vehicles) produced in Ontario, and greater Canada. And it's incredibly proud for us," she said.
Vale said Phase 1 of the Copper Cliff project represented more than five years of effort to revitalize the South Mine, which had been closed in 2009.
The expansion will nearly double the ore production at the Copper Cliff Mine, adding roughly 10,000 tonnes per year of contained nickel and 13,000 tonnes per year of copper, said information provided by the company.
The project will also see the creation of roughly 270 new jobs.
The company said in a news release feasibility studies are currently underway for future development phases at the Copper Cliff Mine Complex “with the potential to deliver sustainable and responsibly-sourced minerals essential for a low-carbon economy well into the future.”
The expansion work saw the addition of more than 12 kilometres of new tunnelling to connect the north and south shafts of the Copper Cliff Mine. Vale said the overall effort spanned more than 5,000,000 person-hours and saw the moving of more than 600,000 tonnes of rock.
Len Gillis covers mining and health care for Sudbury.com.