Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.
Deep-Sea mining rules could be fast-tracked
The government of Nauru plans to ask the International Seabed Authority (ISA) to fast-track the adoption of seabed mining regulations, a source with direct knowledge told Reuters, in a sign of growing pressure to launch the controversial new industry.
Could deep-sea mining get the go ahead within two years?
The so-called "two-year rule" would compel the ISA to allow seabed mining to go ahead within two years, effectively setting a deadline for the body to finalise mining regulations.
The source, who was not authorised to speak to the media and declined to be named, said Nauru would send the request to the ISA on June 30.
Ambassador Margo Deiye, permanent representative of Nauru to the ISA, was not available for comment.
The Pacific island nation roughly 2,800 miles (4,506 km)northeast of Australia is a sponsoring state for The Metals Company, formerly known as DeepGreen. The Metals Company plans to list on the Nasdaq next month in a merger with blank-check company Sustainable Opportunities Acquisition Corp (SOAC.N).
Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, private mining companies must be sponsored by a state in order to do seabed mining. The Metals Co is also sponsored by Kiribati and Tonga.
Any ISA member state that either holds or sponsors a deep-sea exploration license for a private company can trigger the two-year rule. The ISA has not yet received any request to trigger the rule, a spokesperson for the agency said.
Deep-Sea mining is targeting polymetallic nodules
Deep-sea mining involves sucking up potato-sized rocks (known as polymetallic nodules) that contain cobalt, nickel and other battery metals and are strewn across the Pacific Ocean floor.
Some scientists and environmentalists have called for a ban on the practice, saying too little is known about deep-sea ecosystems and mining could wipe out as-yet undiscovered species. Alphabet Inc's Google and BMW have called for a moratorium on the practice.
The Metals Company has argued that seabed mining will be more sustainable than mining on land, producing less waste and fewer carbon dioxide emissions.
Based in Vancouver, The Metals Company has said it aims to start mining in 2024 and expects exploitation regulations to be approved within the next two years. In regulatory filings, the company raised the possibility that an ISA member state might trigger the rule. The company did not immediately return a request for comment.
Conservation groups have raised concerns about a fast-tracked timeline. The ISA postponed meetings set for July but this week said it aimed to hold in-person sessions later this year.
Matthew Gianni, co-founder of the Deep-Sea Conservation Coalition, said the ISA's review process must be properly finished and should not be pressured by the two-year countdown.
"Negotiations around regulations and the royalty regime are still underway and should not be rushed to meet an artificial deadline," he told Reuters.