After 45 Years, the Superstack Will Soon Be Decommissioned
Stuart Harshaw Vale in from of superstack

Stuart Harshaw, VP Ontario Operations at Vale Canada Ltd., announced that the iconic Superstack will be replaced by two energy efficient stacks by 2020.

While there are no plans yet to demolish the Superstack, Vale has decided that by the second quarter of 2020 the stack will no longer be in service and will be put into care and maintenance mode until its fate can be studied and decided. In its place two smaller, 450 foot stacks will be built that will be more efficient than the Superstack built 45 years ago.

Construction of the new stacks will start this spring and Vale estimates that they will take two years to complete. The new stacks will take less energy to operate and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 40% (Vale says that the company’s savings in fuel consumption will be equal to that of the total of heating and cooling 17,500 homes – one third of all the houses in Greater Sudbury. With Vale’s new $1 billion AER project, which will reduce particulate emissions by 40 per cent and dramatically reduce SO2 emissions by 85 per cent, Greater Sudbury’s environment will be even healthier.

Rick Bertrand Local 6500

Rick Bertrand President of USW Local 6500 spoke on behalf of the members at the news conference and agreed that reducing emissions is important today for workers, the community and our children.

The Superstack is a symbol of our industrial heritage and like it or not without it we would have had a vastly different landscape. Vale is interested in our community’s memories and thoughts on the Superstack and asks that you email with your stories and photos which Vale may use in future public communication materials.

We thought we’d bring you the story about how our Superstack came to be.

Vale Inco Superstack

The Superstack during construction in July 1970. Photo courtesy of Vale.

 The Sudbury area, once a forest of tall pines, had been denuded by lumbering, fires and mining. People near the old roast yards used in the smelting process before any of the stacks at Vale were built have told stories of having to get to their outhouses by means of a guide rope because there were times when the air was so thick with smoke and sulphur from the roasting process that the outhouse couldn’t be seen from the back door of their homes.

It wasn’t until the building of two new 500 foot chimneys in Copper Cliff in 1936, which were touted as the highest chimneys in the British Empire, that Sudbury’s air became markedly better.

In the 1960s the provincial government began asserting its authority on the preservation and rehabilitation of the environment that Inco, now Vale, began looking into better ways to reduce sulphur emissions at Sudbury’s mines. One of the first steps undertaken in the Sudbury area was made when the company commissioned the construction of a 1,250 foot Superstack with a gas cleaning system to be built at its Copper Cliff Smelter to reduce ground level concentrations of sulphur dioxide and dust. Construction of the superstack cost more than $25 million US at the time.

Construction of the Superstack was an unparalleled engineering feat – there was no higher chimney in the world and it was the tallest freestanding structure until the CN Tower was built. Today the Superstack is still the tallest chimney in Canada and the second tallest in the world (after the GRES-2 Power Station in Kazakhstan which is about 124 feet taller. There is an elevator and steel ladder inside the stack between the inner concrete shell and the steel liner. There are also 8 platforms throughout that serve as resting platforms as well as give access to the six red aircraft warning lights.

On March 2, 1970 the first load of concrete was delivered to the site. Concrete was poured five days a week, 24 hours a day by the Canadian Kellogg Company Ltd. using a specially constructed slip-form platform which could be raised as the concrete structure got higher. Each hour over 600 adjustments were made to the forms to ensure that the concrete thickness of the walls was exact. The concrete was hoisted up in one yard buckets from inside the stack where they were loaded into 1/4 yard buggies that distributed concrete into the form around the stack. By the time the stack was near completion it took ten minutes to hoist one yard of concrete to the top. The final yard of concrete was poured at 8:03 p.m. on August 21, 1970.

Construction materials used:

• 21,564 cubic tons of concrete weighing 38,742 tons was used.

• 1,000 tons of reinforcing steel was required.

• Insulation is two inches thick and weighs 100 tons.

• The 1,184 foot liner weighed 1,562 tons and was prefabricated in 100 foot sections

• The base of the stack is 116 feet, 5 1/4 inches in diameter at the base, which is four feet thick. At the top the diameter is 46 feet, eight inches.

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