A Voisey's Bay breakthrough? Significant mining announcement coming Monday

Government and Vale officials have confirmed that a "significant" mining announcement will take place in St. John's Monday regarding the long-delayed underground mine at Voisey's Bay.

Government, Vale confirms plans for a media event

The Voisey's Bay mine and concentrator is located south of Nain, Labrador. (Vale)

Nickel prices have soared in recent months, and it now appears that rebound will mean big news for Labrador's mining sector.

Government and company officials have confirmed that a "significant" mining announcement will take place in St. John's Monday, regarding the long-delayed underground mine at Voisey's Bay.

"Indeed, the government is making a significant mining announcement on Monday and we look forward to joining them," a spokesperson for Vale wrote in an email to CBC News Friday morning.

The government confirmed Friday afternoon that Premier Dwight Ball will join leaders from the Brazilian mining giant at 10 a.m. Monday at the Sheraton Hotel.

No one will confirm details, but sources say Vale plans to announce that plans to establish an underground mine at Voisey's Bay are back on track.

The project was cast into uncertainty 10 months ago when the company announced it was reviewing its worldwide operations amid a persistent downturn in nickel prices.

The roughly $2-billion project was sanctioned in 2015, and was scheduled to begin production in 2020.

A new timeframe for the project will likely be released on Monday, but it's sure to inject some much-needed optimism into an industry that has been buffeted by challenges in recent years.

Surface mining began in Voisey's Bay in 2005 in order to access a world-class nickel deposit. There are also large deposits of copper and cobalt.

The company has also established a multi-billion-dollar nickel processing facility in Long Harbour, Placentia Bay. The company said last year the workforce at that facility was more than 900 people.

But the open-pit mine is expected to be exhausted in three or four years, and the underground expansion was promoted as a way to extend the life of the mine by about 15 years.

Vale has said it will require an extra 400 people to operate the underground mine, in addition to the roughly 450 people who currently work at the site in northern Labrador.

Considerable engineering and site development work has already been completed.

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About the Author

Terry Roberts

CBC News

Terry Roberts is a journalist with CBC's bureau in St. John's.