Turnagain nickel project in Canada has potential to be world’s first carbon-neutral mine, exec says

Mineral sequestration could be used to develop the world’s first-ever carbon-neutral nickel mine, according to the president of Giga Metals Corp, which is developing the Turnagain project in British Columbia, Canada.

Martin Vydra said that its Turnagain project is on a path to achieving carbon neutrality without having to purchase carbon credits, according to test results conducted on mineralized material from the site.

Greenhouse gases are absorbed when tailings products are reacted with carbon dioxide (CO2) generated from mining operations to form carbonate minerals, such as magnesium carbonate, that can store carbon for thousands of years or more, permanently removing emissions from the atmosphere.

The move comes as governments and companies including miners, automakers and battery producers worldwide move to address climate change in part by cutting carbon emissions to meet net-zero targets by 2050.

Nickel is a key material in the production of batteries for energy storage and electric vehicles.

“As the only North American undeveloped nickel deposit on this scale, solely focused on the Class I and battery chemicals market, we think our emphasis on low-carbon and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles will make us a desirable source of battery metals for electric vehicles,” Vydra said.

Test work on the nickel sulfide and cobalt project was conducted by a team led by the University of British Columbia’s Greg Dipple, who has been studying the sequestration of CO2 in mine tailings around the world for more than 15 years.

In its 2020 preliminary economic assessment, Giga Metals disclosed expected emissions from commercial operations at Turnagain of less than 2.5 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per tonne of nickel produced in concentrate, based on a diesel haulage fleet.

When an electric haulage fleet is factored in, this falls to less than 0.75 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per tonne of nickel; and when sequestration is used, the project becomes carbon neutral, Giga Metals said.

The global weighted average of emissions is estimated to be 25.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent per tonne of finished nickel.

“We recognize the growing importance of strong ESG performance from commodity producers,” Vydra said.

“Europe is already introducing a strong carbon policy which could provide economic incentives to low carbon sources of raw materials. We are proud that our project is at the forefront of being able to contribute to a carbon-free industry,” he added, noting that there is still significant work ahead to reach the project’s potential.

Fastmarkets price assessment for nickel sulfate min 21%, max 22.5%, cobalt 10ppm max, exw China, was 33,000-33,500 yuan ($5,132-5,209) per tonne on Friday May 28, unchanged from May 14 when it moved up by 500-1000 yuan per tonne (2.3%) from 32,000-33,000 yuan per tonne previously.

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