Reactivation process underway at Voisey's Bay, with production to resume in July
Mine operations and expansion project paused in March due to pandemic
In another sign of the slow recovery from the global pandemic, Vale Canada announced Thursday that mining and milling operations at its remote Voisey's Bay property in northern Labrador will resume in July.
Construction of two new underground mines at the site is also picking up steam.
The fly-in, fly out operation was idled in March, and hundreds of workers sent home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus into some remote and vulnerable Indigenous communities, where there are fears that an outbreak would be be intensified because of overcrowding in some homes and challenges in accessing health-care services.
With public health measures being slowly relaxed in Newfoundland and Labrador, and no known active cases of the coronavirus in the province as of Thursday, the company has decided to begin the slow process of resuming production at its surface mine.
There are 245 workers at the site involved in operations, and that number will grow as the company aims to reach full production of nickel-cobalt-copper concentrate and copper concentrate by early August.
A multibillion-dollar mine expansion project, meanwhile, resumed last month, and is expected to quickly ramp up, with the workforce expected to grow from 330 to 425.
But Vale is not taking any chances as it brings in more workers, and has hired a company to test all employees who enter the site, located just south of Nain.
"The ability to mass-test is in addition to the robust screening measures currently in place and offers greater knowledge and transparency of the number of people who may have had contact with the coronavirus, allowing for immediate action and avoiding large-scale infection," the company said in a press release.
Despite the massive disruption, the company still plans to produce first concentrate at its Reid Brook underground mine next year, followed by its Eastern Deeps mine.
Meanwhile, nickel processing at Vale's refinery in Long Harbour, Placentia Bay, was not interrupted by the pandemic, said a company spokesperson.
There have not been any confirmed cases of the virus at any of the company's sites in Newfoundland and Labrador, according to the Vale official.
The company said its reactivation plans have been done in consultation with Indigenous communities, and government and public health officials.
"That engagement will continue through the process of making the testing lab operational and realizing the benefits of mass testing at site," reads the press release.