Artificial Intelligence

This city’s mining battle reveals the contentious path to a cleaner future

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It was these wealthy reserves that drew Talon, which was beforehand centered on growing gold mines in Brazil, to this a part of rural Minnesota. After reviewing the findings of Kennecott Exploration, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto that had been drilling on the website for greater than a decade, it agreed to accumulate a 30% stake for $37.5 million in 2014. Talon now owns 51% of the undertaking. 

The density of the nickel, copper, and iron on the website signifies that Talon can extract extra metals from each ton of ore it pulls up from the bottom. It additionally makes it cheaper, simpler, and extra worthwhile to course of the metallic to the purity ranges required for the batteries that energy EVs, says Todd Malan, the corporate’s chief exterior affairs officer and head of local weather technique.

As well as, the geological make-up of the location means Talon’s operations ought to have a a lot smaller local weather footprint than main nickel mines in different components of the world. A lot of the world’s nickel is extracted from shallow, diffuse deposits, by way of open-pit mining tasks that usually go away expansive scars, encroach on forests and farms, and contaminate waterways. They will produce round 18 instances extra greenhouse-gas emissions per ton of mined and processed metallic than mining operations at a geological formation just like the one in Minnesota, in response to knowledge from Skarn Associates, a mining sustainability analysis agency. 

“The potential right here is to attempt to develop the USA’ outstanding mineral wealth in a brand new and totally different means than we’ve finished mining previously,” Malan says.

Talon intends to dig deep as a substitute of broad. It plans to make use of a train-car-size “tunnel boring machine” geared up with a spinning cutterhead to excavate a tunnel about 350 toes down, by way of the glacial until, into the deep bedrock and again—laying down a watertight cement tube because it goes. From there, the corporate will swap to standard drill-and-blast extraction strategies, filling drill holes with ammonium nitrate or different explosive mixtures to explode and break deep rock.

aerial view of four sump ponds
Cuttings from exploratory drilling are deposited into what are referred to as “sumps” close to the proposed mine.

AP IMAGES

The method might launch as a lot as 2.6 million gallons of water into the mine per day, largely from aquifers disconnected from the area’s contemporary water sources, the corporate says. Talon plans to pump that water as much as the floor, deal with it by way of reverse osmosis or an identical course of, and launch it into the adjoining wetlands, the place it will feed into Large Sandy Lake and ultimately the Mississippi River.

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