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Vale explains its tailings dust protocol in wake of windy May day

City resident expressed concern that wind was whipping up tailings dust around Copper Cliff
Photo submitted by reader shows what might be tailings dust in the right side of the picture.

Although at least one Sudbury resident was recently concerned about high winds causing heavy dust in parts of the city, Vale reports there were no formal complaints that were received on the company complaint's line, said Jonathan Laderoute, a communications specialist for Vale Base Metals in Copper Cliff. 

One complaint sent to was asked about incidents of blowing dust on May 23 when Environment Canada reported wind speeds blowing at 36 to 38 kilometres that afternoon.

The reader wondered why the story was not covered. The reader provided a photo that showed blowing dust, but there was nothing to indicate whether it was from tailings or dust from a nearby dirt road. asked Vale if anyone complained. Vale said no.

The Vale website contains information on how local concerns can be addressed, either by phone or email.  

"If you have any questions or concerns about Vale’s Sudbury Operations please call us on our Community Concerns Line at (705) 222-VALE (8253), for 24-hour service, seven days of the week. Or, email us at: [email protected]," said a notice on the website. 

Vale said it does have people and procedures in place in case there is an incident regarding wind and dust. 

"Vale Tailings patrols and monitors for dust throughout the day and weather forecasts are used to predict and prepare for windy days. We have one real-time particulate monitor in the tailings area, not far from Rockville, measuring dust moving in that specific direction," said the email response from Laderoute. 

He added that in the event that there is a concern, the company has a plan.

"We have an Operations Dust Management Plan that includes observation routines for potential areas of concern, equipment readiness verifications, daily review of weather forecasts, and use of dust abatement products that are spread or sprayed depending on the areas requiring mitigation," he said.  

Laderoute said one of the reasons for the readiness plan is that the problem has occurred in the past. 

"There were frequent dusting events about 20 years ago, then Vale started looking for and implementing alternatives and improvements to the dust management routine that existed at the time. This included test work such as trialing sprinkler systems and different dust suppressants products. We also utilize additional equipment such as snow cats, storage tanks and aerial application," said Laderoute.

He added changing weather patterns has prompted the company to be extra vigilant.  

“The lack of snowpack this winter provided drying conditions for some areas before the seasonal grasses were able to sprout. To address this, we mobilized the aerial dust chemical spraying campaign earlier than normal and focused on a ground campaign as well." Laderoute wrote.  

"Preparation occurred early this spring when we increased the resources and training on the equipment with our service contractors to provide additional resources when required to support the dry conditions being experienced. We are also looking at other options for dust mitigation based on the changing weather patterns that are being experienced in the area.”

Len Gillis covers mining industry stories as well as health care for


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Len Gillis

About the Author: Len Gillis

Graduating from the Journalism program at Canadore College in the 1970s, Gillis has spent most of his career reporting on news events across Northern Ontario with several radio, television and newspaper companies. He also spent time as a hardrock miner.
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