09/26/2014 09:00 EDT | Updated 11/26/2014 05:59 EST

Vale, nickel giant, gets into the bee business in Sudbury, Ont.


Mining company Vale is hoping honey bees will encourage its re-vegetation project in Sudbury.

For decades, nickel producer Vale (formerly INCO) dumped tons of molten slag around its refinery in Copper Cliff. The by-product of the nickel-smelting process accumulated until black mountains were formed.

In 2006, Vale embarked on a $10 million re-vegetation project to grade the landscape, cap the slag with soil, then scatter the ground with clover, grass and wildflower seeds. Trees were also planted.

This year Vale contacted the services of a retired Vale employee, Wayne Tonelli, to raise honeybees on the property.

"With all the wildflowers, it was thought to promote pollination and help the re-vegetation process," the Vale superintendent of decommissioning and reclamation said.​

Seven hives are now buzzing with more than 350,000 bees. The hives are situated in an old utility trailer owned by Vale, which allows for the bees to enter, but keeps predators likes bears out. 

Dr. Jennifer Babin-Fenske of Earthcare Sudbury supports in the initiative. 

"The bees are actually helping and enhancing and seeding other flowering plants, which helps with the biodiversity of our city."

Sudbury beekeeper Marnie Oystrick is also happy to see the mining company get into the bee business.

"I think it's fabulous because it's a big company and they're harvesting resources from the area. It's their opportunity to give back to the environment and put things back to where they were," she said.

"Bees are in trouble right now. There's a lot of environmental stresses on bees. When a big company like Vale gives a little back into beekeeping, in general, it makes people aware and helps the bees."

Most of the honey produced by the bees remains in the hives as a food source for the bees over the winter. In future years Vale hopes to donate any excess honey to the local food bank or soup kitchen.