From mining waste to building materials
Talon Metals and EnviCore pioneer "full value mining" tech Metal Tech News - March 30, 2023
Last updated 4/14/2023 at 6:12am
Canadian tech company EnviCore and nickel mining company Talon Metals are teaming up to pioneer a "full value mining" technology that converts mine waste into products for the building, construction, and infrastructure industries.
This new technology has the potential to transform waste from nickel mining – called tailings – into additional products with added value for stakeholders.
The resulting byproduct would replace primary raw materials in legacy cement and concrete production, significantly reducing carbon dioxide emissions from a sector that accounts for at least 8% of CO2 generated globally.
EnviCore's full-value mining technique converts a diverse set of mineral feedstocks into supplementary cementitious material (SCM) at low temperatures to partially replace cement in a concrete mix.
The U.S. mining industry is positioning itself within a greener, more circular economy where renewable or recyclable materials are used in production and where waste becomes an asset, not a liability to store or dispose of.
"We are thrilled to be working with Talon Metals to test and scale our technology in lab studies that if proven, can fundamentally change the way the mining industry looks at its waste streams," said Shahrukh Shamim, CEO of EnviCore. "Our partnership is focused on new sustainable and environmentally responsible practices that potentially avoid waste and provide society with multiple useful materials."
Talon is in a joint venture with Rio Tinto on the high-grade Tamarack nickel-copper-cobalt project in central Minnesota, a perfect setup to test this new technology.
EnviCore is a growing tech company offering low-cost and environmentally friendly alternative byproduct treatment solutions.
Development of de-carbonized replacements for primary materials like Portland cement is a key interest of the cement industry, one of the highest carbon-emitting industries in the world.
"While these are lab scale studies, it's very exciting to challenge conventional thinking about waste. The work we are doing with EnviCore has the potential to avoid waste in the first place," said Henri van Rooyen, CEO of Talon Metals. "As a bonus, these materials may reduce the carbon footprint of cement and concrete. If aspects of the ore other than the highly valuable nickel and copper can replace other materials that society needs, then we are ensuring that we make full use of the natural resources that society allows us to extract. This 'full value mining' approach is an area of sustainable practice that Talon Metals is dedicated to leading the industry."
Any prospective product would also have to be tested in state and federal permitting processes. Studies will include subjecting core samples to the mineral process of extracting copper, nickel and iron sulfides and then conducting lab tests on their replicated waste streams.
Afterward, further independent scientific research will be needed to validate the safety and efficacy of the SCM before it can be marketed for public use.
Partnerships like these are ushering in a new era by redefining the value of what is extracted from the earth and how it can be better utilized by industry.
By exploring sustainable practices in the materials supply chain and repurposing mine tailings as value-added products, technologies like the one being advanced by EnviCore and Talon will lead to reduced waste storage costs and potentially avoid creation of waste altogether, flipping the narrative on industrial waste.