A worker at the Vale smelter complex in Copper Cliff, Ont. (Gino Donato/Canadian Press)

Vale has awarded a two-year, $600 million contract for mechanical, electrical and instrument work at the Long Harbour nickel processing plant it is building in Newfoundland.

The plant will process nickel concentrate produced at the Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador when it opens in 2013.

The contract was won by KBAC Constructors, a partnership of Peter Kiewit Infrastructure, BMA Constructors and G.J. Cahill & Company (1979) Ltd.

It is the single largest contract that Vale has awarded for the the $2.75 billion Long Harbour plant, John Pollesel, chief operating officer for Vale's base metals business in the North Atlantic, said in a news release.

Vale has awarded contracts worth more than $1.5 billion for the plant, with 90 per cent going to local companies, he said.

The plant will use hydrometallurgy technology developed and tested by Vale in Canada. Once running, it will be the first in the world to process concentrate from nickel sulphide ore directly into finished nickel, eliminating airborne emissions of SO2 and increasing the amount of metal recovered from the concentrate, Vale said on its website.

Long Harbour is about 110 kilometres west of St. John's.