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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
Name of conflict:Vale Mining in Voisey's Bay, Labrador, Canada
State or province:Newfoundland Labrador
Location of conflict:Voisey'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 commodities:Nickel,
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Voisey’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.)

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Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:11/1994
Company names or state enterprises:Vale 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
International Nickel Company (INCO) 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 actors:Nunatsiavut 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 Finance InstitutionsBank of Montreal (BMO) from Canada
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Voisey's Bay - Innu Rights Coalition
Mining Watch
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Nunatsiavut government (of the Labrador Inuit)
Innu Nation
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
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
Other Environmental impactsThere 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-economical 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 socio-economic impacts 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
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Criminalization of activists
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Proposal and development of alternatives:Innu 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 an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:“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 & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(Mining Data Online, n.d.)
[click to view]

Lowe, M. (1998). Premature Bonanza: Standoff at Voisey's Bay. Between the Lines.
[click to view]

(Wikipedia, Voisy, n.d.)
[click to view]

(Jamasmie , 2018) Vale moves ahead with long-awaited expansion of Voisey's Bay mine.
[click to view]

(McKenzie-Sutter, 2018) ‘Momentous’: Vale gives green light to Voisey’s Bay mine expansion. The Globe and Mail.
[click to view]

(Higgins, 2011) The Voisey's Bay Mine. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage
[click to view]

(Vale, n.d.) Vale's Webpage on Voisy Operations
[click to view]

(Mining Watch, 1999) Between a Rock and a Hard Place:Aboriginal Communities and Mining. Report.
[click to view]

[click to view]

(Ryakuga, n.d.) Ntesinan, Nteshiniminan, Nteniunan: Between a Rock and a Hard Place Innu Nation Task Force on Mining Participatory Research Process on Mining.
[click to view]

(The Nation, 1997) Protest Camp at Voisey’s Bay. The Nation Archives.
[click to view]

(Roberts, 2018) Voisey's Bay poised to capitalize on demand for cobalt, but Vale silent. CBC News
[click to view]

(Innes, 2001) Staking Claims: Innu Rights and Mining Claims at Voisey's Bay. Cultural Survival Quarterly Magazine
[click to view]

Other documents

Innu Nation Flag flys over Voisey Bay Labrador Sourced from:
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Jen Gobby
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:4135
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