As the province moves through the different levels of COVID-19 restrictions, businesses that had slowed down or ceased production are ramping back up again, including the mine in Voisey’s Bay.
Vale, the company that owns the nickel mining megaproject, announced on July 22 it would move back to production in late July and expect to be at full capacity by early August.
SaltWire Network contacted Vale about the site and was sent a statement on the return to production.
“The feedback from employees returning to the site for the first time in several months has been very positive,” Bill Legge, site services manager, said in the statement. “They are extremely impressed with the controls that are in place and are happy to see the mine returning to full production.”
According to the company, the ramping up comes after three months of monitoring events and progress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
"That a big international mining consortium would take the shutdown so seriously was assuring to people in Nunatsiavut, (especially) because we’re so close to the site and a lot of our people work there. To know they weren’t taking any chances of one of our people getting infected ... was a good thing." — Julius Dicker
The Voisey’s Bay project is less than 40 kilometres from the town of Nain and is a significant employer in the coastal town of about 1,100 people.
Julius Dicker, AngajukKak (mayor) of the community, said they’ve been impressed with how Vale has handled COVID-19 restrictions so far, ramping down the mine in March and moving into care and maintenance mode until recently.
Dicker said when the pandemic started, they were worried there was a possibility COVID-19 could end up at the camp and be brought to the communities, but Vale assured them all precautions were being taken.
“The fact that a big international mining consortium like that would take the shutdown so seriously, it was assuring to people in Nunatsiavut,” Dicker told SaltWire. “People were worried because we’re so close to the site and a lot of our people work there. To know they weren’t taking any chances of one of our people getting infected with COVID-19 and bringing it back to a community was a good thing. We totally agree with their protective plan.”
According to the statement from Vale, it is partnering with a private testing lab to provide polymerize chain reaction (PCR) testing of all employees entering the site, to help with identification and tracing, and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. PCR testing is considered to be the gold standard of COVID-19 testing at present. To date, there have been no cases identified at the Voisey’s Bay site.
Dicker said besides the safety protocols at the site and in the province, which require workers from outside the Atlantic bubble to isolate for 14 days, the workers from the Nunatsiavut region will be the last to return to work, as an additional protective measure. He cautioned people still have to be careful.
“Even though everyone thinks everything has gone back to normal, it’s not. All the protective measures we need protecting the people going into Voisey’s Bay are still there. We are confident it’s working and that they have our safety in mind.”
Evan Careen is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Labrador for SaltWire Network