A potential CO2 absorbing nickel mine
BC junior miner answers Musk's call for enviro sensitive nickel Metal Tech News Weekly Edition – August 5, 2020
Last updated 9/11/2020 at 12:35pm
Long before Tesla CEO Elon Musk called on miners to produce more of the nickel needed in the lithium-ion batteries powering a rapidly expanding electric vehicle sector in an environmentally sensitive way, Giga Metals Corp. was working toward that very goal at its Turnagain nickel-cobalt deposit in northern British Columbia, Canada.
"Further to Elon Musk's specific call to nickel producers to pursue environmentally friendly nickel in high volume made during Tesla's latest earnings call, we are actively pursuing the development of this large sulfide deposit to meet the future requirements of EV manufacturers," said Giga Metals President Martin Vydra.
More information on Musk's message to miners can be read at Is Elon Musk considering Tesla gigamines? in the July 29 edition of Metal Tech News.
Just how large is Turnagain? According to the most recent calculation this deposit hosts 5.2 billion pounds of nickel and 312.4 million lb of cobalt in 1.07 billion metric tons of measured and indicated resources averaging 0.22% nickel and 0.013% cobalt; plus another 5.5 billion lb of nickel and 327.3 million lb of cobalt in 1.14 billion metric ton of inferred resource averaging 0.22% nickel and 0.013% cobalt.
The inferred resource needs additional drilling to be upgraded to the higher confidence measured and indicated categories.
Only taking into account the nickel and cobalt within the measured and indicated categories, this is a potentially enormous source of two of the key metals needed in lithium-ion batteries.
And when it comes to mining these metals in the "environmentally sensitive way" called for by Musk, Giga Metals has already made significant headway on that front.
A year ago, Giga Metals joined a group of government agencies and industry partners to fund research into the sequestration of carbon dioxide (CO2) into silicate mine residue, including the tailings from mining ultramafic deposits such as the one that hosts the nickel and cobalt at Turnagain.
Tailings are a fine-grained material resulting from crushing mined rock to a sand- or silt-like constancy in order to extract the valuable metals. These tailing are typically stored in a large impoundment until the mining is complete and then covered with soil and contoured to the surrounding landscape.
At Turnagain, these tailings may also serve a higher purpose.
"More than a decade of research by project lead Dr. Greg Dipple has shown that silicate mineral residue, when exposed to the atmosphere, absorbs CO2 and converts it to carbonate minerals, and the CO2 would remain locked in the carbonates over geological time scales," Giga Metals CEO Mark Jarvis said in mid-2019.
Dipple has developed a methodology to measure the carbon uptake in silicate mine residue. Acceptance of his methodology would mean that carbon credits could be obtained for mine site sequestration of CO2.
"Our goal is to be the world's first carbon neutral mine." said Vydra. "We plan to use power from B.C. Hydro's clean energy grid, which will involve more capital expenditure than the alternatives, but is the right thing to do. This exciting research now underway could help with our goal by providing a way to measure carbon uptake in our residue."
In addition to drawing CO2 out of the atmosphere and locking it away in stone for eons, this process cements together the fine-grained tailings as they convert to carbonate minerals. This cementation is expected to strengthen the tailings impoundment facilities, providing stability that further meets Musk's call for mining nickel in an environmentally sensitive way.
Answering the Tesla CEO's petition for "environmentally friendly nickel mining at high volume", Giga Metals CEO Mark Jarvis said Turnagain and other large sulfide nickel deposits waiting to be developed in Canada meets these criteria.
"Canada has some of the toughest environmental regulations in the world, so if you buy your nickel from Canada, you can be assured that this part of your supply chain is ethically sourced," Jarvis said.
And the ability to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and store it in the rocks that the nickel and cobalt came out of is a bonus.
"Recent focus on ethical and sustainable development of nickel mines is drawing positive attention to Turnagain," said Vydra. "Over the last several years we have invested significant effort into engineering a zero-carbon footprint mine and we believe the time is right for the industry to move in this direction."