The following statement was issued today by Roger Grimes, Minister of Mines and Energy. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
I rise today to give my honourable colleagues an update on the Voisey's Bay Project in light of INCO's annual general meeting held in Toronto yesterday.
As we have stated numerous times, this government remains committed to obtaining full and fair benefits for the people of this province from all of its natural resources, and Voisey's Bay is certainly no exception.
While there have been no formal negotiations with INCO since July of 1998, the premier met, informally, on a number of occasions with INCO President Scott Hand. Government is ready to return to the table to consider any reasonable proposal which provides appropriate benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Our goal is sound resource management and sustainable development, and we were pleased to see that the recent environmental panel report supported this view.
Yesterday, INCO stated that Voisey's Bay remains a significant development opportunity, and that the company is prepared to resume discussions with the province to achieve a project that will meet the needs of both the province and the company.
INCO has indicated that they are reviewing alternative concepts to make this happen. We welcome the opportunity to review any reasonable proposal which will facilitate this project.
We understand that INCO has been affected by low nickel prices over the past year or so, and in fact reported a first-quarter loss in 1999 of $16 million. That said, nickel prices are continuing to recover and are almost back to the level they were one year ago. As well, INCO stock is currently at 12-month high levels. As government has noted before, commodity prices are cyclical, and a deal should not be struck based on any one point in that cycle.
In an effort to provide an environment conducive to development, this government is progressing in its land claim negotiations with both the Inuit and Innu.
Voisey's Bay remains a world-class nickel-copper-cobalt deposit, and I am confident that it will be developed. It is this government's responsibility to ensure that this development occurs in a sustainable manner which will benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
1999 04 29 2:35 p.m.