Canada Nickel launches NetZero Metals to develop zero carbon nickel, cobalt

Highlights

Subsidiary will research and develop a processing facility using existing technologies

Crawford project contains serpentine rock that naturally absorbs CO2 when exposed to air

Project and facility also near hydroelectricity generation capacity

Canada Nickel Company has launched a subsidiary, NetZero Metals, to produce zero-carbon nickel, cobalt and iron products from the company’s Crawford nickel-cobalt sulfide project near Timmins, Ontario.

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It said July 27 that the subsidiary would research and develop a processing facility located in the Timmins region, which would use existing technologies to produce these products.

Canada Nickel CEO Mark Selby said over 90% of the Crawford project comprises serpentine rock, which absorbs CO2 when exposed to air through a naturally occurring process of spontaneous mineral carbonation, and the project would use also close to zero-carbon hydroelectricity.

“The electric vehicle industry and many other consumer sectors needs zero-carbon metal this decade — not in a nebulous 2050 timeframe contemplated by many other resource companies,” he said.

“With nickel as a preferred metal to power the clean energy revolution, our commitment to net zero-carbon production is the right step to take for the environment, for consumers, and for our investors,” Selby added.

Canada Nickel said it was aiming for zero carbon emissions at the mining, milling and processing stages of production.

In mining, wherever possible it will use electric rope shovels and trolley trucks powered by electricity from the nearby hydroelectric generation capacity, rather than diesel fuel. It will also analyze how much CO2 will be absorbed by the serpentine rock mined, offsetting the project’s CO2 emissions.

During the milling phase, the hydroelectric power generation will also be used for the significant amount of electricity required.

In the processing stage, Canada Nickel said it would be exploring the potential for producing nickel and cobalt products from existing pyrometallurgical processes, such as roasting, sulfation roasting, and reduction using electric arc furnaces using natural gas rather than coke or coal as a reductant, with the off-gases captured and rerouted to allow the CO2 be captured by the waste rock and tailings from the Crawford project.

“The company will also look at existing hydrometallurgical processes to produce nickel and cobalt products such as the Albion or other similar processes, which generate minimal off-gases to produce nickel and cobalt products. The off-gases will again be captured and treated to ensure CO2 and SO2 emissions are minimized,” it said.

Canada Nickel explained that the current nickel processing approach of laterite and sulfide ores generated a significant environmental footprint via sulfur dioxide and CO2 emissions.

“These environmental challenges will only worsen given the industry supply profile with the bulk of recent nickel supply growth and the main source of future production growth being nickel pig iron production in Indonesia,” it said.

Canada Nickel said that, according to industry sources, Indonesian production used 25-30 mt of coal to produce 1 mt of nickel, which, when combined with other sources of CO2, generated nearly 90 mt of CO2 emissions per mt of nickel produced.

It pointed out that this means an EV battery pack containing 50 kg of this nickel would represent around 4 mt of CO2 emissions.

“Other sources of nickel supply growth that have additional environmental footprint issues are high-pressure acid leaching projects in Indonesia that are considering technologies such as deep-sea discharge of tailings, which would result in ocean discharge of approximately 100 mt of material per 1 mt of nickel,” the company said.

The company has applied for trademarks for the terms NetZero Nickel, NetZero Cobalt, and NetZero Iron in the US, Canada, and other jurisdictions.