WABUSH, N.L. — The keen interest in seeing Wabush mines up and operating was evident at the most recent meeting of the Labrador West Chamber of Commerce.
Close to 70 members and guests attended a meeting that featured a presentation from two key Tacora executives, Mike Twite, manager of environment and government affairs, and Joe Nielsen, general manager of ore operations.
As the presentation started, Twite explained the ore mined at Wabush has an advantage over ores produced in some areas of the world because it is a higher grade ore. He said lower grade ores will mean more emissions in the long run, something many countries like China are trying to avoid.
Twite also said the operation received another boost recently when Cargill — which had entered a five-year agreement to buy their high grade concentrate for five years — extended that contract to six years.
“The Wabush operation is sustainable for the long-term, given there is a better price for premium product, and we are looking at the potential to further improve our product,” Nielsen then explained.
He also told chamber members that they will not be pelletizing.
He noted that the manganese content, which once was considered a detriment, is not an issue as many people want ore with manganese to use as blends.
Overall the company is confident with the future of the mine as they have an agreement with QNS and L for transporting ore, and an agreement with the port in Sept-Îles, Quebec for shipping.
As well they have picked up some equipment such as shovels and drills. There is a long-term lease for equipment, and Komatsu has assured them that 10 haul trucks they need can be delivered when needed.
Both Tacora officials fielded questions from chamber members.
According to Twite and Nielsen, the next major step for Tacora is to obtain the $120 million in equity financing, which they are confident will happen. They explained that those things take time, but assured the chamber they would not have invested so much time and money if they weren’t confident the project would go ahead.
After approval, then the company would assemble their key team — managers and department heads etcetera. After that they would determine the number of workers they would need.
It’s expected the number of unionized and management would be about 280.
The eventual goal would be six million tons annually, which they say will start with just over two million and then ramp up slowly till they reach their potential. They expect that would take two to three years.
They are hoping the team will be in place by late summer or early fall.
The electricity required, 55 megawatts is available and has been negotiated for.
When asked what they are doing now, the team explained they are proceeding with things until they are fully funded, but have been doing preventive maintenance, testing electrical, testing lines, dewatering, and caring for what’s on site.
They also told the chamber that former workers would be given priority to jobs at the mine.
When asked about the present trade issues with the United States, they explained that most of their product goes to Asian and European markets, so tariffs are basically not an issue.
Chamber members were pleased to get the update and welcome the additional employment back to the area. They were also quick to point out during their dialogue with the Tacora officials, that the secondary and service industries would also benefit from the reopening of Wabush.