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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: North America: October 24th 2005


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:: Inco Opens Hydromet Demonstration Plant as next Phase of Voisey's Bay R&D Program

Inco today achieved another significant milestone in its Voisey's Bay project with the start-up of the demonstration plant in Argentia, Newfoundland to test hydrometallurgical processing technologies to treat Voisey's Bay nickel concentrates.

"The demonstration plant at Argentia will build on the successes we've already achieved with our hydromet R&D program at the mini-pilot plant in our Sheridan Park research facility," said Inco Chairman and CEO Scott Hand. "We believe hydromet technology can play an important part in the future of the Voisey's Bay project and will help to position Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador at the forefront of mineral processing technology worldwide."

"The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is pleased to see the successful start-up of the demonstration plant in Argentia as this marks another significant step forward in the development of the Voisey's Bay project," said Ed Byrne, the province's Minister of Natural Resources. "We wish the company success in demonstrating that the hydromet technology will work for its operations in Newfoundland and Labrador."

"Our hydromet research and development program represents one of the most significant R&D investments in Canada," said Mr. Hand. "Hydromet technology offers a cost-effective and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional smelting and refining which will help place the Canadian mining industry at the forefront of the development of this processing technology."

Inco is developing hydromet technologies for Voisey's Bay in four stages: bench-scale laboratory testing, which is already completed; the operation of a 1/10,000 scale mini-pilot plant which began in 2003 and was completed in June 2005; the operation of a 1/100 scale demonstration plant; and its final application in a commercial plant environment. The commercial plant, utilizing this technology to treat Voisey's Bay nickel concentrates, would be built in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Hydromet has several key advantages over a conventional smelting and refining process. It is more economical in terms both of capital and operating expenses, more energy efficient, and more environmentally friendly, eliminating the sulphur dioxide and dust emissions associated with a conventional smelter.

Some 150 people will be involved in the operation of the demonstration plant. The demonstration plant phase of the hydromet R&D program is scheduled to conclude in late 2007, at which time Inco will complete its assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of using hydromet technology to treat Voisey's Bay nickel concentrates at the commercial processing plant. Construction of the commercial processing plant would begin in 2009 and be completed by the end of 2011.




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