INFOGRAPHIC: The story of Voisey's Bay: Today's mine (Part 3 of 3)

After the Voisey's Bay deposit had been sold to the highest bidder in 1996 for $4.3 billion, it took some years to come into production.

The last part of this series highlights the richness of the deposit itself – and we also profile the world's largest icebreaking cargo ship that is used to transport the ore for a cool $100 million per load.
The Story of Voisey's Bay: Today's Mine (Part 3 of 3)

Presented by: Equitas Resources, “Nickel exploration in Labrador”

PREFACE

The massive Voisey’s Bay nickel deposit was auctioned off to the highest bidder in early 1996 for $4.3 billion. We have recapped the events leading up to the sale in previous parts of this infographic series on Voisey’s Bay:

We show the events leading up to the nickel discovery in Part 1: The Discovery

We highlight the bidding war for the rights to the deposit in Part 2: The Auction

VOISEY’S BAY TODAY

The discovery at Voisey’s Bay was ultimately significant for three reasons:

  1. The ore was rich in content. In fact, the famed Ovoid zone had an average grade of 2.8% nickel.
  2. Much of the ore was near the surface. This would help to minimize extraction costs.
  3. The deposit was close to tidewater. This reduced the costs associated with transporting ore to ships

THE DEPOSIT

The Voisey’s Bay deposit is world-class in terms of its grade and size. With 141 million tonnes of ore, the deposit has significant grades of nickel, copper, and cobalt:

  • 1.63% nickel
  • 0.85% copper
  • 0.09% cobalt

The resource is located in the three main zones: Ovoid, Eastern Deeps, and Reid Brook. The Ovoid represents less than 23% of the total tonnage, but more than 42% of the metal in the deposit.

MINING AND TRANSPORTING THE ORE

The open pit mine at Voisey’s Bay, now owned by Vale, has been in operation since 2005. Recently, underground mining was approved at the site as well.

The ore from Voisey’s Bay is transported via the Umiak I – the world’s most powerful icebreaking cargo ship.

  • The Umiak I makes 12 trips a year
  • The icebreaker rides over ice that can be 10 metres thick in places
  • It has a 30,000 horsepower engine, which is large enough to drive an oil tanker 10x its size
  • The Umiak I can carry 30,000 tonnes of nickel-copper concentrate at once (worth $100 million per load)

THE FUTURE

The Newfoundland and Labrador government estimated that the Voisey’s Bay project will add approximately $20.7 billion to the province’s gross domestic product during the mine’s estimated 30-year lifespan.

Will more of these mines be found in Labrador in the future?

A well-known exploration proverb states that “the best place to find a new mine is next to an old mine”.

That’s why, in a research report by the Newfoundland and Labrador government on Voisey’s Bay it is noted that “this area remains highly favourable for future exploration.”

And as Robert Friedland has said himself:

“Creative people shouldn’t be punished for failure, because in the exploration process we are in the business of drilling dry holes. You can’t keep drilling where you’ve looked.” – Robert Friedland