November 7, 2005

Inco launches third stage of hydromet program at Voisey's Bay

In Argentia, Newfoundland, Inco has officially opened the hydromet demonstration plant, the next phase of the Voisey's Bay project.

"Our hydromet research and development program represents one of the most significant R&D investments in Canada," said Inco chairman and CEO Scott 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," he added.

Hydrometallurgical technology, or hydromet, has several key advantages over a conventional smelting and refining process. It is more economical in terms both of capital and operating expenses, it would eliminate shipping of concentrate to Inco's smelters in Ontario and Manitoba, and it is more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly, eliminating the sulfur dioxide and dust emissions associated with a conventional smelter.

Inco is developing hydromet technologies for Voisey's Bay in four stages. The first two included bench-scale laboratory testing, followed by the operation of a 1/10,000-scale mini-pilot plant, which began in 2003 and was completed in June 2005 at the Sheridan Park research centre in Mississauga, Ont.

The newly-opened, 1/100-scale demonstration plant is the third stage, the fourth being final application of the technology in a commercial plant environment. Some 150 people will be involved in the operation of the demonstration plant, which will continue until late 2007. At that point, Inco will complete its assessment of the technical and economic feasibility of a commercial-scale facility using hydromet technology to treat Voisey's Bay nickel concentrates.

The commercial facility would be built in Newfoundland and Labrador, with construction beginning in 2009 and concluding by the end of 2011.

Inco began the $150 million (U.S.) research and development program in 2002, aided by $60 million (Cdn) in support from Technology Partnerships Canada. The aim of the program was to confirm the commercial application of hydromet, to treat Voisey's Bay nickel concentrates.

"The successful operation of our mini-pilot plant in Sheridan Park has greatly improved our understanding of how hydromet can be applied to process Voisey's Bay concentrate," Hand said, adding, "We are optimistic that the demonstration plant will confirm its commercial feasibility for processing Voisey's Bay concentrate."

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