Aboriginal groups say yes to Voisey’s deal

Massive mine near Nain will now go forward


Labrador’s two aboriginal peoples have endorsed impact and benefit agreements with Inco Ltd. and the government of Newfoundland on Inco’s proposal to build a $470-million mine and mill at Voisey’s Bay near Nain.

This removes the last legal obstacles to development of the site, which Inco bought for $4 billion in 1996.

Of the 2,000 members of the Labrador Inuit Association who cast ballots, 82 per cent voted to approve Inco’s deal with the LIA.

As for the Innu Nation, about 600 of their members cast ballots, 68 per cent in favour.

The Reuters news service reported this week that Inco will likely go ahead with preliminary work on the massive project, pending a final legal agreement that’s expected to be sealed and signed this fall.

Reuters also said that Inco will pay the Innu and Inuit nearly $300 million over the next 30 years.

Last week, the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly voted 28 to 18 in favour of a deal between Inco and the province that Newfoundland Premier Roger Grimes had announced earlier this month.

The impact and benefit agreements are intended to guarantee minimum levels of Inuit and Innu participation in various jobs and business opportunities that the Voisey’s Bay project will generate.

The Voisey’s Bay site, which is a 40-minute motor-boat ride from Nain, was first discovered by prospectors in 1993, when tests confirmed a major find of copper and cobalt.

In 1994, further tests showed that the site may contain the largest nickel deposit in the world, and in 1995, Inco bought the site.

But declining metal prices made the site look less attractive and Inco began to reassess the project in 1997. Later, Inco and Newfoundland butted heads over the question of a Newfoundland-based smelter.

But after Roger Grimes became premier in 2001, replacing the hard-line Brian Tobin, the project began to move forward.

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