Vale Canada has put its Voisey’s Bay mining operation on care and maintenance for four weeks as a precaution to protect the health of residents in nearby Indigenous communities.
The mining giant said in a March 17 news release it was taking the unusual step as a response to the COVID-19 coronavirus currently circulating the globe.
Vale said it had wound down operations at Voisey’s Bay, an open-pit and concentrator operation in Labrador, on March 16 to “help protect the health and well-being of Nunatsiavut and Innu indigenous communities in Labrador in face of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Although none of our employees has tested positive for coronavirus at any of Vale's global operations, Vale has taken this preventive action because of the unique remoteness of that area, with fly-in and fly-out operations, with higher exposure to travel,” the company said in a release.
“Vale will work together with the communities and authorities to ensure our operations do not act as a catalyst to inadvertently introduce the virus in these communities.”
The company said it would continue to process nickel and cobalt at the Long Harbour Processing Plant, since it had stockpiled enough concentrate to feed the plant beyond the four-week care-and-maintenance period.
However, “copper concentrate production at site will be reduced proportionally to the period of mine stoppage.”
The company also said that, starting today, a “great majority” of Vale employees and third-party workers based in its corporate offices will now work from home as a further precautionary measure.
On March 13, the company announced that Sudbury-area employees had been sent to work at home after attending the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) convention in Toronto.
A Sudbury man in his 50s tested positive for COVID-19 after attending the conference on March 2 and 3.