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:: Vale Win Natural Resources Industry Excellence Award for Innovation
Being innovative requires patience. Vale knows this to be true. In 1999 it developed the patent for a novel metal processing technology called hydromet. But it wasn’t until 2009 that it was confident enough the technology could work at an industrial scale that it started building its Long Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador processing plant. “If the technology was already on the shelf, it would have been a much quicker process,” says Stuart Macnaughton, vice-president of Vale Newfoundland and Labrador.
Of course, it wasn’t. Vale invested $200 million in research and development of this processing technology that does not emit toxic sulphur dioxide while processing nickel concentrate from its Voisey’s Bay mine. The technology is now being used in the US$4.25 billion plant that will employ 450 people, which is why Vale was selected as the winner in the innovation category for our inaugural Industry Excellence Awards.
While the plant isn’t producing at full capacity yet, Macnaughton says the hydromet technology is working well and there have been few technical issues with the plant. “We are happy with our progress to date,” Macnaughton says. “The only thing we’re unhappy with is the nickel price. But there isn’t much we can do about that.”
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