Toronto’s Bactech Environmental and Sudbury’s MIRARCO want to mine nickel, cobalt and iron the natural way
Sudbury may be on the cusp of an innovative new phase in its 40-year regreening effort. What an army of volunteer tree planters once accomplished to reforest a barren landscape, blackened by a century of nickel roasting and smelting, now a swarm of microscopic bugs could provide in an environmentally friendly solution to clean up a massive amount of mined waste rock while recovering valuable minerals in the process.
BacTech Environmental Corp., a Toronto green technology company, is pulling a proven technology out of mothballs to relaunch it in Sudbury to “liberate” millions of dollars worth of battery-grade metals out of mine tailings through a proprietary bioleaching process.
The company estimates the Sudbury basin hosts up to 100 million tonnes of pyrrohotite tailings, mostly held by Vale and Glencore, containing valuable nickel and cobalt. Both are deemed critical minerals in the electric vehicle battery supply chain.
BacTech estimates there’s US$22 billion worth of untapped nickel in the tailings, based on the market price for nickel at US$27,000 per tonne. The tailings are estimated to contain 0.80 per nickel and 0.03 per cent cobalt.