Praxair Canada has signed a new contract with Vale, a leading international mining company, to supply oxygen to a new nickel processing facility being built in Long Harbour, Newfoundland.

Praxair will build, own and operate an energy efficient cryogenic air separation unit with a capacity of 390 tons per day, which is expected to start up in mid 2013.

Vale has developed a new hydrometallurgical process that will utilise oxygen to remove the sulfur and iron from the nickel. Unlike traditional nickel refining processes, Vale’s new method makes it possible to process the nickel ore concentrate directly into finished metals without having to smelt it first, avoiding sulfur dioxide and dust emissions. Nickel is used to produce stainless steel and other alloys, used in various industries, including aircraft.

“We are building a world class nickel refinery that will employ state-of-the-art technology. The operation is intended to be efficient, cost effective, and a key part of Vale Base Metals production plan for years to come. We use oxygen as one of our primary inputs in the pressure leaching process to react with the contained sulphur and dissolve the nickel into solution. Praxair is a key supplier for us. A reliable on-site source of high quality and low cost oxygen is critical and we are looking forward to a positive long term relationship,” said Don Stevens, General Manager of Vale’s Long Harbour Processing Plant.

“We are committed to reliably supplying Vale with high-quality products and services to support its growth and improve its energy efficiency and environmental performance,” said Matt White, president of Praxair Canada. “We have been a trusted supplier of gases and services to Vale for many years, both in Canada and around the world.”