Vale Mining in Voisey's Bay, Labrador, Canada

Voisey's Bay nickel-copper-cobalt mine in northern Labrador, owned by Vale, operates despite strong resistance by Inuit and Innu peoples in the 90s. Now the open pit mine is being transformed to an underground mine creating further risk and damage.


Voisey’s Bay nickel mine in Labrador was strongly opposed by Innu and Innuit when explorations and operations began. The mine is now being expanded by Vale, a Brazil based global mining company to include underground mining operations which will produce cobalt, which is in demand for use in cell phones and electric car batteries. 

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Basic Data
NameVale Mining in Voisey's Bay, Labrador, Canada
ProvinceNewfoundland Labrador
SiteVoisey's Bay
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesNickel,
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsVoisey’s Bay is a “6,000 tonnes-per-day facility produces two types of concentrate: nickel-cobalt-copper concentrate and copper concentrate. (Vale, n.d.). "This deposit is estimated to contain 141 million tonnes at 1.6% nickel" (Wikipedia, Voisy, n.d.)

"The mine currently employs about 500 people" (Jamasmie, 2018).

"Transiting Voisey's Bay nickel mine from open-pit operations to underground will cost about $2 billion and is expected to extend its productive life to 2035, Once operational, and including the Long Harbour processing plant, direct employment will hit 1,700 jobs. Vale will partly finance the expansion through an agreement to sell future production of cobalt from the Canadian operation to Wheaton Precious Metals and Cobalt 27. Both companies will make a combined purchase equal to 75% of Voisey's Bay cobalt production from Jan. 1, 2021 onward" (Jamasmie, 2018).
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date11/1994
Company Names or State EnterprisesVale Canada Ltd from Canada - Vale owns the Voisey's Bay mine and processing facility at Long Harbour, Placentia Bay. They hold the mining rights for the Voisey's Bay nickel deposit.
Wheaton Precious Metals
Cobalt 27
Inco Limited from Canada - Inco bought the Voisey's Bay deposits for $4.3 billion in 1996. (Inco is now Brazilian-owned Vale Inco)
Vale (Vale) from Brazil
Relevant government actorsNunatsiavut government (of the Labrador Inuit)

Newfoundland Labrador provincial government

Labrador Inuit Association (LIA)

Innu Nation

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

Federal Government

Innu Nation Task Force on Mining Activities

Mushuau Innu First Nation Council
International and Financial InstitutionsBank of Montreal (BMO) from Canada
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersVoisey's Bay - Innu Rights Coalition

Mining Watch
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Nunatsiavut government (of the Labrador Inuit)
Innu Nation
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Media based activism/alternative media
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts
OtherThere will be no fish, caribou, ducks, geese at Eimish after the mining starts (Innes, 2001)

Not only was this area "a choice traditional hunting and fishing area, it also held significant archaeological and ancestral burial sites. It is also an important habitat for caribou, wolves, bears, small mammals and migratory birds including the endangered Harlequin duck and the sensitive Peregrine falcon"
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Malnutrition, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Other This area was/is an important traditional hunting and fishing area.

Innu leaders, spokespeople, elders, and community members consistently articulated positions that centered on the effects of the project on Innu rights, Innu land, and the Innu way of life (Innes, 2001).
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCompensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Development of AlternativesInnu directly participated in the selection of Environmental Assessment Panel members, thus ensuring that Innu concerns would be taken seriously by the panel, and this led to "the extension of the definition of ‘environment’ in the assessment beyond bio-physical conditions to include the social, economic, recreational, cultural, spiritual and aesthetic factors” (Mining Watch, 1999).
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.“The Innu Nation was able to translate the high level of organisation of their communities and their links to allies across Canada into effective leverage with governments and the mining companies. They educated and mobilised their community, launched court cases, and occupied the mine site in order enforce their right to control what happens on their land, slow the mine development process, and generate national media coverage" (Mining Watch, 1999). That said, the project did go a head despite opposition by the Innu and the Inuit. Impact Benefot Agreements were ignored.
Sources and Materials

Lowe, M. (1998). Premature Bonanza: Standoff at Voisey's Bay. Between the Lines.
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(Mining Data Online, n.d.)
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(Vale, n.d.) Vale's Webpage on Voisy Operations
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(Wikipedia, Voisy, n.d.)
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(Jamasmie , 2018) Vale moves ahead with long-awaited expansion of Voisey's Bay mine.
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(McKenzie-Sutter, 2018) ‘Momentous’: Vale gives green light to Voisey’s Bay mine expansion. The Globe and Mail.
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(Higgins, 2011) The Voisey's Bay Mine. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
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(Innes, 2001) Staking Claims: Innu Rights and Mining Claims at Voisey's Bay. Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine
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(Mining Watch, 1999) Between a Rock and a Hard Place:Aboriginal Communities and Mining. Report.
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(Ryakuga, n.d.) Ntesinan, Nteshiniminan, Nteniunan: Between a Rock and a Hard Place Innu Nation Task Force on Mining Participatory Research Process on Mining.
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(The Nation, 1997) Protest Camp at Voisey’s Bay. The Nation Archives.
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(Roberts, 2018) Voisey's Bay poised to capitalize on demand for cobalt, but Vale silent. CBC News
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Other Documents

A tailings pond at Voisey's Bay nickel mine site Sourced from:
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Voisy's Bay Map Sourced from:
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Innu Nation Flag flys over Voisey Bay Labrador Sourced from:
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Meta Information
ContributorJen Gobby
Last update27/03/2019