January 25, 2011 / 11:33 PM / 9 years ago

Vale says Voisey's Bay leak fixed, operations halted

* Faulty valve caused tailings leak, water contaminated

* Operations halted, no restart date given

* Investigation of leak being hindered by winter storm

TORONTO, Jan 25 (Reuters) - Brazilian miner Vale VALE5.SA said on Tuesday it had repaired a faulty valve that caused a tailing leak its Voisey’s Bay nickel project in Eastern Canada, but gave no indication as to when operations would resume at the mill.

“We are currently testing the line with water,” said Bob Carter, a Vale spokesman in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Once that’s completed we’ll be in a better position to bring operations back on.”

The leak of toxic waste water was discovered on Jan. 22, shutting down the ore milling operation at Voisey’s Bay. The tailings leak contaminated a pond that the company uses for the complex’s potable water system.

“As a precaution we’re asking people to drink bottled water and to use bottled water for brushing teeth,” said Carter, adding that water samples have been sent to an external lab for analysis.

Carter said a serious winter storm has hindered the company’s ability to get the crews and equipment out to the site to monitor the area affected by the spill.

Voisey’s Bay is located in a remote region of northern Labrador. About 130 unionized mine and mill workers have been on strike at the operation since August 2009.

Vale resumed partial production at Voisey’s Bay in 2010 using non-union workers and outside contractors.

Prior to the strike, Voisey’s Bay produced 77,500 tonnes of nickel and 55,400 tonnes of copper a year.

$1=$1 Canadian Reporting by Julie Gordon; editing by Rob Wilson

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