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MEI Online: Hydrometallurgy: Latest News: October 10th 2003

:: Inco Celebrates Hydromet Mini-Pilot Plant Opening  

Inco has celebrated a significant milestone in its Voisey's Bay research and development program with the official opening of a mini-pilot plant in Sheridan Park, Mississauga to test its hydrometallurgical processing technology for Voisey's Bay concentrates.

"Our success with this technology will play an important part in the future of our Voisey's Bay nickel-copper-cobalt project, and will also help to position Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador at the forefront of mineral processing technology worldwide," said Inco Chairman and CEO Scott Hand.

"Today marks another substantial step forward in the development plan for Voisey's Bay," said Walter Noel, Minister of Mines and Energy for Newfoundland and Labrador. "With the official launch of the mini-pilot plant phase of this project, Inco continues to demonstrate that it is living up to its commitments in the Development Agreement. This project will create hundreds of jobs for generations to come and inject billions of dollars into the provincial economy."

Inco's US $134 million research and development program for Phase One of the Voisey's Bay project is aimed at confirming the commercial application of hydrometallurgical technology, or hydromet, to treat Voisey's Bay concentrates. Hydromet technology offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional smelting and refining.

Inco is developing its hydromet technology for Voisey's Bay in four stages: bench-scale laboratory testing, which is already completed; the mini- pilot plant; a demonstration plant; and a commercial plant. The demonstration plant and commercial plant will both be built in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"This is the same step-by-step process that we have used successfully to develop the hydrometallurgical technology at our Goro project in New Caledonia. Quite simply, it's the right way to develop a project of this scale," said Mr. Hand.

Hydromet has several key advantages over a conventional smelting and refining process. It is more economical in terms both of capital and operating expenses, more energy efficient, and more environmentally friendly, eliminating the sulphur dioxide and dust emissions associated with a conventional smelter.

"This is not experimental technology," said Scott Hand. "It's been around for a long time. We're confident that our in-house expertise in hydromet, combined with our step-by-step approach to R&D, will make this technology a big winner for us at Voisey's Bay."

He noted that Inco's long-standing strength in R&D is playing a major role in both of its expansion projects at Goro and Voisey's Bay. "Our research and development strength has never been more important than it is right now, and it's helping to drive the biggest growth period in our company's history," he said.

Some eleven co-op students and recent graduates from Newfoundland and Labrador are among 65 employees working at the mini-pilot plant. "We're helping these young people develop the knowledge and skills now which they can take back to Newfoundland and Labrador to help make this project a success in the years ahead," Mr. Hand said.



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