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May 19, 2004
(Natural Resources)


The following statement was issued today by Ed Byrne, Minister of Natural Resources. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

I rise in the House today to announce this government�s plan to ensure compliance of Voisey�s Bay Nickel Company (VBNC) with its adjacency principle for the mine/mill portion of the Voisey�s Bay project.

The Voisey�s Bay mine/mill project is a very significant development for Labrador and it is important the residents of Labrador derive as much employment and training opportunities as possible from the project. VBNC has given a commitment to hire qualified residents of Labrador on this component of the project and has taken measures to ensure its hiring and the hiring done by its contractors follow its adjacency principle.

Nevertheless, government also has a role to provide oversight on major resource-based projects on behalf of the people of this province. This government intends to carry out our responsibility to ensure that VBNC lives up to its commitment of adjacency.

In August 2003, the previous government established a short-term contractual position to monitor VBNC�s compliance with its adjacency principle. The position was not funded under the department�s salary budget and the cost had to be covered through forced savings elsewhere in the department�s budget. After assuming responsibility for the department in November 2003, I gave direction to continue the position, eventually to the end of the fiscal year until I had an opportunity to undertake a full review of the position and its function.

I have looked at various means, within the constraints of a reduced budget, to continue, and indeed strengthen, government�s role as it relates to the Voisey�s Bay adjacency commitment. I have also had consultations with my colleagues, the minister responsible for Labrador, and the minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, as well as the Member for Lake Melville, Mr. John Hickey, over the concept of using shared resources to carry out this responsibility.

I am pleased to announce today that government will improve and strengthen its effort to ensure VBNC�s compliance with its adjacency principle. The responsibility for this compliance will be shared between the office of the Department of Natural Resources in Labrador City/Wabush, and the office of the Department of Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

This decision makes absolute best use of existing personnel in the Labrador offices of the departments of Natural Resources and Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs. The responsibility will be carried out by permanent departmental staff who live in Labrador and who are well-versed in the employment opportunities and challenges associated with the Voisey�s Bay project. This arrangement will give permanency to the function that did not exist previously. It will also greatly improve accessibility for the people of Labrador who have questions and concerns over employment at the Voisey�s Bay mine site.

I assure the residents of Labrador that this government has every intention of holding VBNC to its commitments of adjacency. The difference this time between the monitoring function and ensuring compliance is that VBNC has agreed to openly share all employment information with government. Having access to this information, provides government with the opportunity to take action as soon as concerns arise.

2004 05 19                                         2:30 p.m.

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