There has been chatter for weeks that Vale NL is in talks with Tesla about the Voisey’s Bay mine in northern Labrador. The mine, which is poised to go underground in the next couple of years, is a significant source of nickel, a mineral Tesla needs for electric car batteries.
Lela Evans, MHA for Torngat Mountains, the riding where Voisey’s Bay is located, thinks it’s a great opportunity for the government to see if it can kill a few birds with one stone.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in July his company is looking to offer a significant contract if a supplier could produce nickel in an environmentally sensitive way.
Evans said Vale has been doing work for years on reducing its environmental footprint and has done a good job of it at the Labrador site. As a remote site with no road access one thing the company can’t avoid, though, is diesel usage, which is expected to increase when the mine goes underground.
Evans said in her opinion this ties in perfectly with a recent prefeasibility study announced on the north coast of Labrador road.
“I think it should take into consideration the huge opportunity for the province to tie Muskrat Falls energy into the Vale mine site. It would be a huge market for Muskrat Falls power, it would benefit Voisey’s and it would benefit the province.”
Since Voisey’s Bay is only about 35 km south of Nain, she said, any proposed road would pass right by the site, not really increasing the cost. She’s hopeful identifying another need for the road may speed the process along and said a commitment to taking Vale off diesel might help their negotiations with Tesla.
An informal estimate prepared on the road by scientist Robert Way a few years ago gave the cost, conservatively, as somewhere between $800-900 million.
“If you look at the economic saving, the carbon taxes, the consumption of fuel for Voisey’s and for power plants in the communities, that would be nothing,” she said of the potential cost, adding it would also save on materials that currently have to be flown to the site.
Evans said as far she’s concerned it would be a win all around for the province, the people on the coast, Vale and the environment.
“I wouldn’t want to see Vale penalized because they’ve on diesel,” she said. “If there was a way to get off it, they would. I think this is a good motivator and a good opportunity.”
Vale did confirm it is in talks with Tesla but no other information has been made available.
“As a world leader in the production and supply of responsibly-sourced nickel, Vale has engaged in talks with stakeholders at all points along the supply chain, including Tesla, to explore the possibility of partnerships,” said a statement from Kristie Cochrane, manager of corporate affairs and communications with Vale NL.
Cochrane said the talks are consistent with Vale’s positioning in the market and the increasing demand for nickel as a critical component of battery manufacturing for electric vehicles.
SaltWire reached out to Tesla but did not receive a reply by deadline.
Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for the SaltWire Network