Our Commitment to Reclamation and Decommissioning in Sudbury

Reclamation & Decommissioning

Our Commitment to Reclamation and Decommissioning in Sudbury

Vale’s Sudbury operations are internationally recognized for our regreening and reclamation efforts. Historically stressed lands and waterways are transforming back to their natural state after more than a century of mining and logging activities in the Sudbury Basin. 

How? Through an annual aerial seeding program that’s reclaimed approximately 8,000acres of land; by planting over 4.5million trees that our grown in our own local greenhouses; by restocking lakes with walleye and trout raised by our environmental team; and by returning former mine sites to their natural state. 

  • + Regreening Timeline

    mm

  • + From Slag Pil​e to Meadow

    At our Smelter in Copper Cliff, our environmental team has established effective techniques to re-vegetate the slag piles that are a byproduct of the mining process. More than 150 acres of land have been progressively re-greened since 2007.

    Bulldozers are used to grade and contour the slopes to promote plant growth and surface water drainage. Then clay is applied to the surface, sprayed with hydro-seed for grass cover, and planted with a mixture of seedlings and mature trees.

    Wildflower seed is included in the hydro-seed mix, enhancing both the biodiversity and natural beauty of the site. Bee colonies placed at the base of the re-greened slag pile act as natural pollinators to further enhance biodiversity in the area. Vale has also planted milkweed at the base of the re-greened slag pile to provide a food source for monarch butterflies, which are also excellent natural pollinators.

  • + Aerial Seeding Takes Flight

    Aerial seeding is particularly effective for re-vegetating historically stressed land in remote areas of the Sudbury basin. In the early 1990s, we partnered with Laurentian University to develop a process to re-vegetate large and inaccessible sites, eventually developing Vale’s modern Aerial Seeding Program.

    Our process amends the soil from impacts of ground-level sulphur and metal particulates left by early smelting and refining practices, accelerating nature’s work by neutralizing the soil and introducing seed.

    Agricultural aircraft apply a mix of pelletized lime, fertilizer, and grass seed to locations otherwise impossible to reach. The project is ongoing, with new treatment sites selected each year by the City of Greater Sudbury’s Vegetation Enhancement Technical Advisory Committee (VETAC).​

  • + Mine Decommissioning

    We take active responsibility for the ongoing care and maintenance of our former operating sites including the Whistle, Crean Hill and Shebandowan Mines:

    Whistle Mine. This open-pit mine produced nickel between 1988 and 1998, extracting approximately 7 million tons of waste rock to access the ore. The stockpiled rock was later used to fill the open pit, and is contained by an engineered pit cover. Any surface water collected on-site is treated and disposed of at the Copper Cliff Central Tailings Area, licensed to accept such waste.

    Crean Hill Mine. An underground mine and three open pits operated intermittently from 1905 until 2002. A total of 18.3 million tons of nickel copper ore was extracted in the mine’s lifespan, and all waste rock was re-used as fill underground or placed into the open pits. The mine openings have been capped, and two of the three pits have been permanently decommissioned. The mine is now flooded; overflow water and run-off is collected and treated before being released into the environment.

    Shebandowan Mine. The nickel-producing mine, 100 kilometres west of Thunder Bay, Ont., operated between 1967 and 1998. Its mill produced a nickel concentrate sent to Sudbury for smelting. Tailings from the mill were disposed of on site, forming a 90-hectare basin, (about 1.5 km X 0.6 km) bound by six tailings dams. Decommissioning of the site began soon after closure, and care and maintenance of the tailings area continues.​ 

  • + Community Projects

    Vale’s Copper Cliff Community Garden promotes everyday sustainability by supporting local action through recycling, composting and food production,while strengthening ties between neighbours.

    The idea took shape in June 2012 when the Foodshed Project, a local non-profit organization, asked to use a small corner of our greenhouse in Copper Cliff to plant vegetables for its Grow-a-Row program for donation tolocal food banks and social service agencies.

    In response, we built 10 raised garden boxes, filled them with soil, peat, compost, vermiculite, and fish compost to start things off, and before we knew it, a thriving community garden was sprouted!

    Our Environmental Department also manages a variety of programs for public use, including the care and improvement of Copper Cliff Park, widely enjoyed by residents for walks, picnics and play.

  • + From Mining to Fish Farms

    ​Our Environment Department has been successfully raising rainbow trout and walleye to stock Sudbury area lakes and rivers since 2011, boosting the fish population and a highly valued resource for local anglers.

    Vale partnered with local fish farming experts, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and fish and game clubs to choose donor sites. The “natural fish waste” generated by the fish is used as fertilizer in our tree-growing facilities for a uniquely sustainable operation.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​