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Vale offers $1 million for innovative solutions to COVID-19 problems

Talks between the Steelworkers Union at Voisey's Bay and Vale have broken off. The union says that if an agreement isn't reached soon there could be a strike. - COURTESY OF VALE
Vale, which operates the Voisey's Bay project in Labrador, has issued a challenge for groups to come to them with ideas on how to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. File photo


Vale, the multinational company that operates the Voisey’s Bay mine in Labrador, is looking for innovative solutions to aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and has put up $1 million USD to fund it.

The company announced its ‘COVID-19 Challenge’ recently, which it describes as a way to ‘accelerate solutions that minimize the impacts of COVID-19 on our society.’

“The intention is we are looking for people with other organizations, government entities, whoever it may be, to put forward ideas in various areas,” said Kristie Cochrane, corporate affairs, Newfoundland and Labrador Operations and Projects for Vale.

The challenge is looking for zero to low-cost solutions that can be up and running in 15 days or less. It’s broken down into eight categories, such as allowing access to reliable information, helping guarantee the supply of protective equipment and identifying risk zones. There will be five submissions chosen by a panel of experts to give $200,000 USD for each idea.

The company is also asking any other companies who want to collaborate or have unique ideas to contact them.

Ed Moriarty, executive director of Mining Industry NL, said the challenge is a great example of how the industry can help support positive outcomes for communities. - FILE PHOTO
Ed Moriarty, executive director of Mining Industry NL, said the challenge is a great example of how the industry can help support positive outcomes for communities. - FILE PHOTO

Cochrane said the company is looking at any way they can help to combat the virus and know they can’t do it alone.

The mining industry in the province is close, she said, and they’ve all been working together behind the scenes to help the health-care system any way they can.

Ed Moriarty, executive director of Mining Industry NL, said it’s a great example of how the industry can help support positive outcomes for communities.

“It hit a chord with me,” he said. “It wasn’t so much a direct appeal but an approach that’s looking to find a solution, beyond the mining company's business model. It’s very interesting and I hope that attracts some good researchers to help tackle that challenge.”

He said this, and recent donations, of Personal Protective Equipment from some big mining companies in the province show how they can help give back in times of crisis and he’s encouraged to see it.

The deadline for submissions to the challenge is April 9. Details can be found here.

Voisey’s Bay wound down

The company moved to care and maintenance mode at Voisey’s Bay on March 17, which Cochrane said was to protect the nearby communities.

“They don’t have the same health-care support we do in the larger centers so we did that to ensure that there’s no probability we would have any influence on bringing that to the region,” she said.

The company said in a release at the time that it took this action "because of the unique remoteness of that area, with fly-in and fly-out operations, with higher exposure to travel."

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