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Letter: What has Vale really done for Long Harbour?

['Workers inspect equipment at Vale’s hydromet nickle processing facility in Long Harbour. — Telegram file photo']
Workers inspect equipment at Vale’s hydromet nickle processing facility in Long Harbour. — Telegram file photo

Just before Christmas, the Long Harbour volunteer fire department went on the Vale site to fight a fire.

While this scares me — that our fire department went on an industrial site — it brings up a very good point. Our firefighters are good enough to put out Vale’s fire, but none of them are good enough to work on the site. The fire at the Long Harbour plant site occurred on the lower tier. Had the fire been on the upper tier, anywhere near the solvent extraction building, the explosion would likely had been catastrophic to our town.

There is a chemical plant in our backyard. What happens if there is a breach in Vale’s tailings pond dam?

In May 2014, Vale plant at Goro in southern New Caledonia was closed after some 100,000 litres of acid-tainted effluent leaked, killing about 1,000 fish.

In November 2015, the Samarco tailings dam in Brazil collapsed due to design and drainage flaws. Nineteen people died.

The potential for an acid spill is always present while offloading a ship in our harbour. We have to live with that.

With the Voisey’s Bay underground mine project being the feed for Long Harbour, and that project under scrutiny by the Newfoundland and Labrador government, it is even more critical for the government and Vale to have an understanding of what the impact of Vale has been on the local town.

Vale has been a major disappointment to me. I thought once the site went into full production, anyone from Long Harbour who wanted a job would be employed. That is the benefit of having a major industry come to our town.

We have qualified trades people in our town unemployed. This should not happen.

ERCO took our fishermen out of their boats and trained them to become an important part of their plant. This made Long Harbour a very prosperous town. Vale has showed very little regard for the people of Long Harbour.

I just don’t understand Vale’s hiring procedures, despite having two different town councillors explain it to me. That is just letting Vale off the hook.

In Labrador, they are sending aboriginal people away to be trained to go underground to work. As they should. I doubt if they have to go through the same hiring procedures that our residents have to. Did we not hunt, fish, cut wood and have cabins where the new site is? Vale owes us jobs. It’s time that they stepped up to the plate in Long Harbour and become good neighbours.

Down the road in Placentia, Husky has committed to hiring locals. Why isn’t Vale able to make the same commitment to us?

We need jobs for our residents. I was at the town hall meeting seven years ago when our mayor and Vale said “jobs, jobs, jobs.” Did no one think to get anything in writing from these people?

This should not be my battle. This is what we have a mayor for. But someone has to take this fight on. If my two kids were here unemployed, I would be over by Vale laying on the pavement.
If nothing is done soon, we will have the unique distinction of becoming a ghost town with a multibillion-dollar plant. Think about that.

Don Bruce
Long Harbour

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