Mt Todd gold mine and the discharge of contaminated water
With news that excessive rainfall has forced the owners of a mine in Katherine to discharge contaminated water into the local river, we take a look at the Vista Gold owned Mt Todd Gold mine.
The Mt Todd Gold Mine, located in Katherine, contains more than 4,000 Olympic swimming pools of contaminated water from its past mining activities.
The owners of the mine are legally permitted to discharge this water into the Edith River when the river is flowing at a high enough rate to dilute it.
"We've been rather fortunate we've had enough rainfall and since then that it's been continuous," he said.
"We've released a third of a gigalitre of treated water already and we're targeting a total of 1.5 gigalitres this wet season.
"It looks like we're certainly going to be able to achieve that."
What is the Mt Todd Gold Mine Project?
The Mt Todd Gold Project, owned by Vista Gold, is a brownfield development gold project. Located north of Katherine, the site includes both the Batman and Quigleys gold deposits.
Acquired in 2006, Vista Gold has been entrusted with care and maintenance of the site and has accepted the obligations to maintain the assets of the NT Government on the site and manage Mt Todd in an environmentally sound manner.
Though not currently in production, Vista Gold is working to obtain permits for the mine for potential future operation.
A nine-million-dollar investment was made in 2012 into a water treatment program for contaminated water held in the Batman Pit as part of its ongoing environmental stewardship of the Mt Todd site.
The majority of precipitation at the Mt Todd site can be attributed to 6-8 events each year. The intensity of some storms has resulted in localised flooding and filled retention ponds in periods of less than 24 hours. Each year Vista Gold and the Northern Territory Government update the water management program in an on-going effort to improve the effectiveness of this program.
The key component to the water management program has been controlled discharge of water from the site and storage of the excess volumes of water.
The Batman deposit is part of a goldfield that was worked as far back as the early twentieth century.
Assessments have revealed estimated gold resources at the Batman deposit to be over seven million ounces of gold and Vista is confident that with evaluated independent development scenarios, there could be process facilities of 33,000 and 50,000 tonnes per day.
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Get in touch with our editor Dale Benton at [email protected]
British Lithium Pressured Due To Calls for Electric Cars
The British demand for lithium is set to reach 75,000 tonnes by 2035 as the government works towards their ban on the sale of high-polluting diesel and petrol vehicles within the UK. This comes as automakers worldwide continue to insist on the benefits electric vehicles will have on slowing the rate of climate change.
It is estimated that the UK will require 50,000-60,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year by 2035 for battery production to satisfy government needs. This is assuming production remains at 1.2 million vehicles per year, and the amount of lithium required does not increase.
British Lithium, which hopes to begin constructing a quarry to produce 20,000 MT of lithium carbonate a year in a $400 million investment, are not without competitors, both within the UK and abroad.
Competition For Lithium Rises In Europe
After only five years after its initial launch, Cornish Lithium is setting its sights on becoming a UK powerhouse in mining lithium, aiming to begin commercial production in under four years. Jeremy Wrathall, a former investment banker and current managing director of Cornish Lithium, had the future in mind when founding the company.
“In 2016, I started to think about the electric vehicle revolution and what that would mean for metal demand, and I started to think about lithium,” he said in an interview with AFP. “A friend of mine mentioned lithium being identified in Cornwall, and I just wondered if that was a sort of unrecognised thing in the UK.”
Lithium was first discovered in Cornwall around 1864 and has not been mined again since 1914 when it was produced as an ingredient in fireworks. Now, however, Cornish Lithium is reportedly in the testing stage to see if the metal can be produced commercially to meet the growing demand required for the electric car sector.
Despite Cornwall’s close historic ties to mining lithium, Wrathall insists that the project is purely commercial.
Cornish Mining Revival For Lithium Production
“It’s not a mission that drives me to the point of being emotional or romantic,” he says. “It’s vitally important that we do get this technology otherwise Europe has got no lithium supply.”
The European Commission has also stated their goal to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035 to aid the environment. That being said, the majority of lithium extraction currently relies on power provided by environmentally damaging fossil fuels─a slight contradiction.
Alex Keynes, from the Brussels-based lobby group Transport & Environment, is adamant that mining for lithium should be done sustainably.
“Our view is that medium-to-long term, the majority of materials including lithium should come from efficient and clean recycling.
“Europe from a strategic point of view should be looking at securing its own supply of lithium.”
Despite growing competition from abroad, British Lithium Chairman, Roderick Smith, continues to place importance on the mining of lithium within the UK.
“Imagine what the UK economy would look like if we lost our automotive industry,” Smith says. “The stakes are high for the UK.”
Smith expects the UK to compete with other European countries to secure a lithium battery plant in the near future.