Cory McPhee, director of external communications, said the company made the decision based on the nickel market experiencing a downturn for a longer period than expected.
“At this point in time there’s really no immediate or short-term relief in sight,” McPhee said. “Looking at the business and reviewing it in light of the price that we are experiencing today is responsible stewardship.
“During this period we’re not approving any new project contracts and pending the outcome of the review we’ll be in a better position to know where we’re headed.”
McPhee would not put a time frame on the completion of the review, which includes all assets and operations around the globe, only to say they expect to know more later this year.
McPhee notes that work surrounding the project hasn’t ceased altogether. In addition to ongoing detailed engineering and procurement, work that has taken place so far include the installation of a construction camp, sewage treatment plant, potable water system, and access to the underground portals.
Provincial Minister of Natural Resources Siobhan Coady said in a statement that the mine, only sanctioned last year, “offers tremendous economic development opportunities” and the hope is “that Vale’s review leads to a continuation of plans for the underground mine.”
Provincial NDP Leader Earle McCurdy, meanwhile, issued a statement taking both the government and Vale to task.
“Vale committed to an underground mine in Labrador and just last year sanctioned it,” said McCurdy. “Now we learn from Vale plans for the mine are on hold, despite the concessions government has granted to the company.”
Those concessions include allowing more time for the company to ship more ore from Voisey’s Bay out of the province while the Long Harbour processing facility was being developed. In return, the company made a commitment to the underground mine and $100 million in compensation. McCurdy stated that Vale was granted more concessions in 2015 in return for more money.
“Vale has already taken advantage of the concessions it negotiated,” said McCurdy. “It’s government’s job to make sure they live up to their commitments under the same agreement.
“We’ve heard little from the Minister of Natural Resources, nothing from the Premier — the silence is deafening.”