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Labrador MINEx a success

Manuel Azevedo, and Marc Dupre, with local company AMF, show off innovative new products they are offering.
Manuel Azevedo, and Marc Dupre, with local company AMF, show off innovative new products they are offering.

LAB WEST - The recent MINEx symposium held in Labrador West showed people in Labrador West, and those that attended from away, that mining is alive and well and on the road to recovery after several challenging years.

Approximately 140 people registered for the event that featured presentations from industry leaders, government officials, and more.

The Labrador West Chamber of Commerce, with sponsorship from all levels of government and many companies, organized the symposium. Dr. Ron Sparks’ moderated the event.

Chair of the conference and Vice President of the Chamber Craig Purves told the Aurora, "We are extremely pleased with the level of participation, the agenda, and the expertise that we have for this event.”

Based on this the Chamber is hoping to make this an annual event.

Eighteen presentations were made over the three-day event, which covered everything from a look towards the future of mining, learning from the past, and ways to be innovative and sustainable.

Pierre Caron, CEO of the Mining Association of Canada, pointed out that the Iron Ore Company of Canada is one of the largest mining operations in the country. He mentioned that the company's plan to go ahead with the Wabush 3 pit  puts the company is a great position as the increase for base metals continue to grow.

"These are the things that will drive the Canadian economy,” he explained.

Caron said mining hit a downturn several years ago, and that's when companies have to prepare for the time when things turn around.

He warned though that there is increased pressure from companies from Australia take over Canada's dominance in the mining industry.

"Canada's rank in mining supplies and services recently dropped to third, surpassed by Australia,” he said.

He says Canada needs to stay focused on being world leaders and part of that can be accomplished with more cooperation with governments.

"We have to work with governments to reduce some of the burdens placed on mining operations by regulations that are in  place" , he explained, and infrastructure needs to be put in places where mining opportunities exist, such as NWT, Yukon,  Labrador and Quebec .

That idea was supported by Rajesh Sharma, the CEO and managing director of Tata Steel Minerals Canada.

Their operation is now in production near Schefferville, on the Labrador side of the border. He says for a while when ore prices dropped they held off on production, and prepared for the rebound. They are also looking at production of taconite, when markets rebound.

He pointed out to the participants that some of the challenges centered around rail shipments and having to deal with four rail operators. He says building partnerships is important as well. He says with a port agreement in place, and looking at moving to a year round mining operation (they currently close during winter) that will mean an increase in production to about 8 million tons a year, with hopes of increasing that even more.

He also said that innovation is important. During the downturn, they set up training for people with assistance from federal and provincial agencies. The result was more skilled, trained workers that were available when the demand for workers increased.

Sharma also pointed out the need to remain sustainable and pointed to Tata's contributions to Caribou research.

"The bottom line is to succeed you need to innovative and reduce costs to remain competitive", he told the audience.

Also presenting at the MINEx, was Christina Barron, manager of corporate development for Alderon Iron Ore Corporation.

She pointed out to the Audience that Alderon intends to move on with their Kami project to mine iron ore in Labrador West. A great deal of work has been done she explained. The project was put on hold several years ago when the iron ore industry slumped. Alderon started the project when ore hit an all-time high of about $180 a ton, last year it was in the mid-$40 range but has since rebounded to about $70.

Alderon had a proposal that would see them use the former Wabush mines for tailings, but now with Tacora buying the operation, Alderon will have their own tailings, she explained to the audience.

Barron says they currently have plans for a 24-year life for the mine; they have port and power agreements in place. As well, Alderon has agreements in place for the sale of 100 per cent of their production. Barron says when final financing is in place they foresee a two-year construction phase and hopefully employment for about 400 full time workers. She concluded by telling the audience Alderon wants to be a good corporate citizen, with a sustainable operation that is proactive in environmental issues.

The provinces Minister of natural resources Siobhan Coady reflected the upbeat mood of the symposium, when she addressed delegates at a lunch meeting. Coady pointed out that the slump appears to be over for the most part, and with Wabush mines being sold, IOC moving on with Wabush 3, Alderon planning to restart the Kami project things are looking very positive.

She pointed out that there is still a need to find efficiencies and reduce costs to stay competitive. Coady also told the audience that government is doing more mapping, and find ways to encourage exploration and development. She says the search for new minerals, is important and she sees a bright future for mining in Newfoundland and Labrador adding that she is also confident that Vale will eventually proceed with the plan to Mine underground at Voisey’s bay.

Delegates the Aurora spoke with said they found MINEx to be an event that provided insight into the complex world of mining, and provided insight on what needs to be done and remain competitive while providing good jobs and a good lifestyle for people in the mining communities.

All agreed making it an annual event would be beneficial to the industry, and the community.

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