Work continues on the huge buildings at the VALE site in Long Harbour in this file photo. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
Vale’s new nickel-processing plant is just over halfway finished.
Speaking at the Mineral Resources Review conference, Don Stevens, general manager of the Long Harbour processing plant, says construction is more than half done.
“The engineering is basically done. Our procurement, the majority of the packages are awarded, we just have very few contracts left. It’s about executing the work rather than procuring things at this point,” he said. “(We’re) getting the concrete in place, which is almost finished, and getting the final steel inside there and getting those buildings closed in by (the end of) this fall so we can start putting equipment in in the new year.”
Largely due to the scope and complexity of the project, Stevens told the crowd, “resource availability” — i.e. tradespeople — is a major concern.
“At this point we have about 2,000 people on the construction site, and we project that will go well over 3,000 by the first part of next year,” he said, adding that construction has provided 7.5 million person-hours of employment, 70 per cent of which have gone to Newfoundland and Labrador workers.
After the presentation, Stevens told The Telegram their assessments show a shortage of the tradespeople the plant will need next year.
“We’re projecting a need for over 3,000, upwards of 3,500 people on the construction site, and we’ve assessed the tradespeople that we have in the province and in the area, and this point we’re projecting our need is greater than the capacity to fill it in the local union halls.” he said. He said the Long Harbour Employers’ Association is placing ads across the country to recruit workers.
“We hope that’ll be successful, but if it’s not, we’ll have to look at other options, he said.
Bob Carter, manager of corporate relations for Vale, said the plant is currently using several hundred people from outside the province on the construction side.
“We expect that that trend will continue,” he said. “We’ve been able to source people primarily in Atlantic Canada, and our objective, firstly, is to find as many people in Newfoundland and Labrador as we can who have the qualifications that the contractors require to complete the project. If we’ve exhausted that pool, then we’ll look, obviously, in Canada, and at this point in time we’re doing a pan-Canada search, and we’ll have to see how that advertising works in terms of identifying qualified candidates for the contractors to consider, and hopefully we’ll able to beat the bushes, so to speak, and find the resources we need.”
When the $3-billion plant hits full production, expected in 2016, it will produce 50,000 tonnes per year in nickel rounds, 4,500 tonnes per year in copper cathodes, and 2,500 tonnes per year of cobalt rounds.