At the request of the city's mining supply and service sector, Vale launched a website last month for those interested in bidding on contracts related to its $2-billion atmospheric emissions reduction project, known as Clean AER.
The website, www.valecleanaer.com, includes information about already-awarded contracts, those currently up for grabs and future opportunities. It also includes a description of the procurement process.
“It came about as a bit of a request from our suppliers and services sector in Sudbury,” Dave Stefanuto, Clean AER project director, said.
“They wanted to understand a little bit more about the project and understand what some of the opportunities are and the timing of the opportunities in terms of when they can participate, and some of the supply and contract agreements.”
While many of the contracts already have “pre-approved” bidders, it benefits smaller companies because they can see who those bidders are, he said.
“If it's something they maybe cannot provide a service for, but maybe they can provide a service as a sub-vendor, it communicates the information to them as to who are the main vendors that we're intending to go to to get that service from,” Stefanuto said.
“Then it also gives them time now to contact those people, and say 'Listen, I can't do this entire package, but this is a component I would like to provide to you when you put your proposal into Vale.'”
Stefanuto said he's received positive feedback on the website.
“They said it's very clear in terms of the way it's laid out, and in terms of communicating the information,” he said.
“We keep it live. That's managed by our procurement team at Vale. As soon as we have that information, the website is automatically updated.
“For them, instead of trying to chase somebody down from Vale to find out what's happening with this package, ... it's very quick with them just to hit the website and be able to get that information.”
Dick DeStefano, executive director of the Sudbury Area Mining Supply and Service Association (SAMSSA), said he appreciates that Vale created the website at the request of his members.
Before the website was set up, in some cases, SAMSSA members were learning about contracts after they were awarded.
“This now opens it up,” he said. “This now identifies projects that are to be determined, in most cases. At least we now know where they're headed.”
When it comes to awarding contracts, Northern Ontario companies are Vale's first choice, Stefanuto said.
“I'd say the majority of the people we have working on our site are actually local vendors and suppliers.”
But DeStefano said by his estimation, only 25 per cent of the contracts have gone to Northern Ontario companies so far. He said he'd like to see that number at 40 or 50 per cent.
The Clean AER project will involve a complete retrofit of Vale's smelter converter aisle, the construction of a new secondary bag house, a wet gas cleaning plant, a second acid plant, and new material handling facilities to better prevent dust from entering the community.
When the project is completed, Vale's sulphur dioxide emissions will go down to 45 kilotonnes per year, versus the regulatory limit of 66 kilotonnes per year. That represents a 70-per-cent reduction from current levels. The company also aims to reduce its dust and metal emissions by another 35 to 40 per cent.
Contractors are still working on developing the site where the new infrastructure will be placed, as well as installing a new converter.
“We have a local contractor that's doing the installation right now,” Stefanuto said. “That'll continue on through to Q1 of early next year.”
But Vale recently announced it was pushing back the completion date for Clean AER from the end of 2015 until the beginning of 2016. Part of the reason behind the delay is the recent dip in nickel prices, Stefanuto said.
“The world has changed since we kicked the project off on June 22,” he said. “We have to recognize the business realities of today and work within those constraints.”
Vale also wants to make sure it gets the construction work right, Stefanuto said.
“We always knew that there was risk in the way we were utilizing this technology at a 100-year-old facility,” he said.
“Some of those things we're starting to understand better as we're getting into the detailed engineering.
“What we'd like to do is take a little bit more time to operate our first converter, understand how it operates, and not jump into the fabrication and installation of the subsequent equipment, and then find out that some of our assumptions are wrong.”
DeStefano said his members don't mind the Clean AER project taking a little longer. With the contracts being spread out over a few more months, it means SAMSSA members won't have to hire so many people at once to complete contracts, he said.
“It reduces our costs, too,” he said.