Pioneering [email protected] project will bring ‘small deposit’ mining revolution
An ethical and sustainable international project, one that is claimed to bring about a ‘mining revolution’, has received a multi-million pound funding boost.
The [email protected] project, led by geology experts from the Camborne School of Mines, based at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall, aims to tap into a significant number of small, international metal deposits.
[email protected] will look to establish an innovative method of mining, in what is being called a “switch on-switch off’ mining. The purpose this will be to excavate raw materials that play a crucial role in the production of many household and technological goods.
This “switch on-switch off” mining will also enable miners to respond rapidly to market demands, and excavate materials that are desired most in any given period.
The project features 10 partner organisations from the UK, France, Germany and Finland is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.
Dr Kathryn Moore, a lecturer in Critical and Green Technology Metals at the Camborne School of Mines and project lead explained: ‘This research is exciting because it has the potential to unlock many small deposits globally, which would ultimately improve the security of supply of materials for manufacturers.
“The project connects the companies creating the necessary technological innovations with academia and a national survey, who will investigate and model the broader step-changes required to roll out the new mining system in a sustainable way.’
At present, mining methods revolve around extracting materials from substantial ‘world-class’ ore deposits - such as the Lisheen zinc mine in Ireland, which closed in January 2016.
Furthermore, production of metals from world-class mines is concentrated in certain countries, such as the antimony mines in China that produced more than 75% of global supplies in 2014.
The closure of mines, coupled with increasing prices from metal-producing countries, helps creates market demand and opportunities for mining companies.
To set up new world-class mines, companies have to develop innovative mining techniques to deal with potentially low grade deposits, invest in large-scale infrastructure to meet demand for quantities, and conduct expensive feasibility studies to prove long-term commercial viability for potential sites.
However, the global economic downturn over the last decade has meant that large-scale investment in these areas is limited – which has had a devastating effect on the raw materials sector.
The [email protected] project’s ‘switch on-switch off’ (SOSO) method to mine many critical metal and other small complex deposits will look to develop targeted, technological innovations in mining equipment design, as well as mine planning. The innovations will not only reduce the feasibility studies required, but also improve the quality of the extracted material, infrastructure, land use, resource consumption and waste. The team believe that this model can be adopted by European and national policy makers, as well as the wider mining industry in general.
Dana Finch, also from the Camborne School of Mines and the Project Manager added: ‘Ethical issues are at the heart of the project. One of our partners will be conducting a social survey in the Balkans, in the region of the first test mine for the project, and we have involved experts in the fields of geo-ethics and social and environmental sustainability from the outset, to inform the way the technology might be implemented in the future.’
The March 2017 issue of Mining Global is now live!
Get in touch with our editor Dale Benton at [email protected]
Vale invests $150mn to extend life of Manitoba operations
Vale has announced a $150mn CAD investment to extend current mining activities in Thompson, Manitoba by 10 years while aggressive exploration drilling of known orebodies holds the promise of mining well past 2040.
Global energy transition is boosting the market for nickel
The Thompson Mine Expansion is a two-phase project. The announcement represents Phase 1 and includes critical infrastructure such as new ventilation raises and fans, increased backfill capacity and additional power distribution. The changes are forecast to improve current production by 30%.
“This is the largest single investment we have made in our Thompson operations in the past two decades,” said Mark Travers, Executive Vice-President for Base Metals with Vale. “It is significant news for our employees, for the Thompson community and for the Province of Manitoba.
“The global movement to electric vehicles, renewable energies and carbon reduction has shone a welcome spotlight on nickel – positioning the metal we mine as a key contributor to a greener future and boosting world demand. We are proud that Thompson can be part of that future and part of the low carbon solution.”
Vale continues drilling program at Manitoba
Coupled with today’s announcement, Vale is continuing an extensive drilling program to further define known orebodies and search for new mineralization.
“This $150mn investment is just one part of our ambitious Thompson turnaround story. It is an indicator of our confidence in a long future for the Thompson operations,” added Dino Otranto, Chief Operating Officer for Vale’s North Atlantic Base Metals operations.
“Active collaboration between our design team, technical services, USW Local 6166, and our entire Thompson workforce has delivered a safe, efficient and fit-for-purpose plan that will enable us to extract the Thompson nickel resources for many years to come.”
The Thompson orebody was first discovered in 1956 by Vale (then known as Inco) following the adoption of new exploration technology and the largest exploration program to-date in the company’s history. Mining of the Thompson orebody began in 1961.
“We see the lighting of a path forward to a sustainable and prosperous future for Vale Base Metals in Manitoba,” said Gary Annett, General Manager of Vale’s Manitoba Operations.