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Vale showcases greenhouse that helped regreen Sudbury

Company celebrates 50th anniversary of the Godfrey Drive greenhouse that helped the massive Sudbury regreening project

For more than half a century, Vale's greenhouse on Godfrey Drive in Copper Cliff has been making a beautiful contribution to the community. 

Vale Base Metals held a celebration June 6 to mark 50 years for the greenhouse in Copper Cliff and the company's contribution to the regreening of Sudbury. 

The facility on Godfrey Drive was built 50 years ago by INCO, but a previous company greenhouse existed in Copper Cliff before that, providing plants and seedlings throughout the community. 

Vale environmental engineer Quentin Smith said over the years the greenhouse has played a significant role in Sudbury.

Vale environmental engineer Quentin Smith speaks during a June 6 celebration honouring 50 years for the greenhouse in Copper Cliff and the regreening of Sudbury. Len Gillis /

"The work that we're doing here at Vale's greenhouse is extremely important. I think everyone is aware that mining companies, the mining industry have had a negative impact on the landscape. And I think this is a scenario where there's been a large group of people who have collectively recognized a problem and then come together to solve that problem," said Smith.

He said aside from producing flowers and overseeing a community garden, the greenhouse has produced hundreds of thousands of tree seedlings year after year to fuel Sudbury's regreening effort.

Gord Gilpin, director of Ontario Operations for Vale Base Metals, told the gathering at the greenhouse Thursday that more than five million trees have been planted in Sudbury thanks to the community effort at the greenhouse. Gilpin said it was a unique achievement.

"And it's an achievement that's recognized all over the world. I want to thank everybody for their part in helping us be part of this extremely important bit of work."

Gord Gilpin, director of Ontario Operations for Vale Base Metals, speaks at celebration June 6 to mark 50 years for the greenhouse in Copper Cliff and the company's contribution to the regreening of Sudbury. Len Gillis /

Gilpin said despite the negative impact of environmental damage from past years, the turnaround that happened in Sudbury is an example that good results can come out of a community effort.

"The mining industry has a bit of a legacy, of course, from an environmental perspective. And one of the things that I'm personally very proud of is the reputation that we here in Sudbury have created on a global scale about what's possible when everyone pulls together to, you know, make the place where we live a much better and healthier environment," said Gilpin.

The audience was also told that the greenhouse is where Vale was raising thousands of fish, mostly trout, for restocking of local lakes each year. 

SEE: Trees, bees, fish and seeds: Vale’s biodiversity initiatives helping to recharge Sudbury’s landscape

Vale senior environmental analyst Mark Sten said upwards of 5,000 young brookies and rainbow hatchlings are brought in, raised and eventually released.  

"It's part of our sustainability program. So, historic mining practices affected some of the lakes in the region and now we're restocking some of the lakes with our program here," said Sten. 

Smith revealed that over the years Vale's fish farm has released more than 120,000 mature fish into local waterways.

The legacy of the greenhouse is thanks to many Inco/Vale employees who have lovingly tended millions of flowers, tree seedlings and other plants over the years. Mike Peters is one of them and he said the credit goes to dozens of people from the community.

Vale senior environmental analyst Mark Sten beside an aquarium filled with young rainbow trout. Len Gillis /

He mentioned long-time INCO gardener Alex Gray. Peters also thanked the generations of children from Copper Cliff Public School who helped out at the greenhouse over the years and took part in community planting programs.

Peters said he was proud to see the work that INCO and Vale employees had undertaken through the years.

"So, right now, we're producing 200,000 seedlings a year in this greenhouse, of which 100,000 go to the city regreening program and 100,000 are for Vale's programs," he said.

"We're talking about a mix of native seedlings to the area — red pine, Jack pine, white pine, white spruce — and we're just trying some red spruce this year, as their growing areas are coming into where we are now," he said.

Another sideline for the greenhouse has been the keeping of bees and production of honey. Smith said the trees, the gardens, the fish and the honey have made the greenhouse more than a greenhouse.

"I like to think of it as like a biodiversity lab; you know, a hands-on sort of biodiversity lab. It's quite an interesting place to work for sure," said Smith.

He said it was important to showcase the facility for the community and especially for the children. 

The youngsters were thrilled with the beekeeping activities and all but swarmed Vale beekeeper Renée Levasseur when she told them not all the bees will sting them.

She told them the “boy bees” in the hive work, but don’t sting. The children were excited to hold the boy bees in their hands. 

"There is a strong legacy of regreening here at this facility, and of course, these kids, the young folks represent the next aspect of that. They're coming in behind us, you know, people like my kids or my partner's grandkids, they've got to toe the line for this and they're the next generation and they're going to take up this cause," she said.

Len Gillis covers mining and health care for