The Chinese owner of the Tanco mine in eastern Manitoba has revived talk of partly draining a lake in order to extract more cesium from one of the world’s few deposits of the critical mineral.
Sinomine Resource Group is musing about a long-term redevelopment of its mine it purchased in 2019 along the shore of Bernic Lake, a small Canadian Shield body of water located between Whiteshell and Nopiming provincial parks. The goal is to reach cesium that can not be mined right now because it’s embedded in vertical columns that hold up the roof of the underground mine.
“There’s a type of mining called ‘room and pillar’ where you mine a big cavern underground, but you leave pillars which are like poles of rock that support the ceiling. If you don’t have them, the whole mine collapses,” said Christopher Ecclestone, a mining strategist at Hallgarten & Company in London, U.K.
“When Tanco was mining this thing for decades, they left these pillars to support the roof. And the Chinese are talking about taking them out.” The push to mine what’s left of Tanco’s cesium stems from the worldwide scarcity of the element, which is used in drilling fluids for oil and gas wells, medical imaging and maintaining time in atomic clocks, among other uses.
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