Nfld. & Labrador

Vale Inco defends use of Sandy Pond

The company looking to construct a hydromet nickel processing plant on Newfoundland's south coast defended itself Wednesday against environmental criticism of its tailings disposal plan involving Sandy Pond.

The company looking to construct a hydromet nickel processing plant on Newfoundland's south coast defended itself Wednesday against environmental criticism of its tailings disposal plan involving Sandy Pond.

Using the pond for disposal is far safer than building something from scratch to contain the tailings, Vale Inco spokesperson Bob Carter told CBC News.

"One of the benefits, of course, of having a natural pond is that we do know that these ponds do not leak, compared to the manmade structure," Carter said. "The size of the structure that we would require would be the equivalent of about 90 to 100 Olympic swimming pools."

The company has planned to build the plant at Long Harbour, at Placentia Bay, to process nickel from Voisey's Bay Labrador.

Part of the plan includes dumping tailings produced from the processing of the nickel in nearby Sandy Pond, a freshwater pond. The environmental impact statement for the plant outlines precautions the company will put in place to ensure the waste remains contained.

But environmental groups have spoken out against the tailings disposal plan, saying Vale Inco should be forced by the provincial government to find a better way to dispose of the waste.

"The question has to be, why is the government of Newfoundland permitting natural water bodies to be destroyed and used as settling ponds, for the convenience of mining companies to inexpensively dump up to 19 million tonnes of tailings into Sandy Pond?" Bruno Marcocchio, spokesman for the Atlantic chapter of the Sierra Club, said in a CBC interview in June.

Carter said the waste needs to be buried underwater because the sulfur in the tailings can not come into contact with oxygen.

Construction on the hydromet plant is scheduled to begin in fall 2008.

The mine at Voisey's Bay, in northern Labrador, began production in 2005 and is considered one of the world's best finds of nickel, as well as cobalt and copper.

Under the terms of its agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador government, Inco committed to process ore within the province.

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