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Inco optimistic about future; Projects could create 600 jobs by 2015

BY KEITH LACEY [email protected] With nickel prices expected to remain strong into the foreseeable future, Inco Ltd. has renewed its commitment to developing two new operating mines within the next decade.
BY KEITH LACEY

With nickel prices expected to remain strong into the foreseeable future, Inco Ltd. has renewed its commitment to developing two new operating mines within the next decade.

Last year, the nickel giant reported net profits of $850 million (US) and similar, if not improved results, are expected when 2005 profits are announced in early March.

The company has ?every intention? of proceeding with development work and feasibility studies to make Kelly Lake Mine and Totten Mine operating mines by the year 2015, said Cory McPhee, Inco?s manager of external affairs.

Inco?s plans include opening Totten Mine, located near Worthington 60 kilometres north of Sudbury, by 2010 and Kelly Lake Mine, located on the south side of the bypass across the highway from Kelly Lake, by 2015, said McPhee.

Several drills were working near the Kelly Lake Mine site earlier this week.

?We are undergoing a growth phase supported by a very strong nickel market,? said McPhee. ?We have five drills out near Kelly Lake Mine, but this is very, very preliminary work.

?It?s the beginning of scoping strategy to confirm and prove the resource, but plans call to continue through to the feasibility study stage before it?s considered for board approval.?

Inco estimates the costs involved to make Kelly Lake Mine operational to be in the area of $800 million and $300 million for Totten Mine, said McPhee.
Totten Mine is much further developed at this stage as it was an operational mine several decades ago, said McPhee.

?Totten is a much smaller project than Kelly Lake, but significant in its own way if it goes ahead as expected,? he said. ?Any time you?re considering
spending $300 million on a new mine, it?s obviously significant.?

If both mines do become a reality, estimates forecast 400 full-time unionized production and maintenance jobs at Kelly Lake Mine and another 200 at Totten Mine, said McPhee.

?It would obviously result is significant jobs and this is always important for this community,? he said.

The company also hires hundreds of contract workers to conduct preliminary work before Inco?s bosses give the final go-ahead to proceed with a full working mine, he said.

The company is also working on a project to continue mining projects as far as 10,000 feet deep at its most profitable operation at Creighton Mine, said McPhee.

?We?re doing mining around 7,500 feet right now and we?re working on future plans to go below 10,000 feet,? he said. ?We now the deposits are there, but the mining would take place below the shaft and you have to consider things like transportation, ventilation and working safely at those depths.?

Inco has also recently announced a $40 million investment to build a copper separation circuit at its Clarabelle Mill complex.

This will allow for the separation of copper from concentrate, freeing up capacity to smelt more nickel at its smelter complex, he said.

All of these expansion plans are good news for the company, community and employees, said McPhee.

?It?s a nice place to be right now,? he said. ?This is a cyclical business as we all know. We?re investing our money when profits are strong to ensure
we can still make a profit in all price systems when things inevitably turn downwards.

?That?s what all these developments are all about.?



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