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MAY 2019 | MAI 2019
Supply chain reactions Battery metals are set to explode, but is the industry ready to keep up with demand? By Kylie WIlliams
50 Monument to the future
53 The internet of tailings
Modular construction keeps Mosaicâ€™s Esterhazy K3 mine expansion on budget and on schedule
Better connections, affordable sensors and smarter platforms are the foundation for modern tailings storage facility monitoring
By Kylie Williams
By Cecilia Keating
May 2019 â€˘ Mai 2019 | 5
CIM MAGAZINE MAY 2019 • MAI 2019
in each issue
8 10 12
Editor’s letter President’s notes Chatter
tools of the trade
The best in new technology Compiled by Matthew Parizot
On Nunavut’s 20th birthday, a look back at how Inuit secured the territory’s best mining lands
16 mining lore
By Herb Mathisen
Beauce Gold Fields is using new surveying technology to find a historic gold deposit
Lake Superior’s Silver Island By Kaaria Quash
By Virginia Heffernan
Monitoring mine waste was less frequent for non-metal mines and there’s no requirement to correct issues, according to new report By Matthew Parizot
58 58 59 60
How universities are trying to reinvent mining education to meet tomorrow’s needs
Table des matières Lettre de l’éditeur Mot de la présidente Comblons les vides en matière d’assainissement des mines Par Sue Longo
By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco
Les prix d’excellence de l’ICM Compilé par Michele Beacom
article de fond
A better way to evaluate social risk
By Tony Andrews
Closing the voids on mine remediation
By Sue Longo
closure and reclamation
Laurentian University bioprospectors discover tailings algae have impressive antibacterial properties By Gillian Woodford
Mining engineering grapples with how to integrate more closure and CSR into the curriculum
CIM Convention 2019
The CIM Awards, handed out at the CIM-Caterpillar Celebration of Excellence Banquet, honour the industry’s finest for their outstanding achievements Compiled by Michele Beacom
By Jax Jacobsen
The power of acid-generating microbes to neutralize alumina refining tailings By Christopher Pollon
6 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Nous publions progressivement sur notre site Internet les articles du CIM Magazine en version française.
La spirale de la chaîne d’approvisionnement On prévoit une explosion de la production de métaux nécessaires à la fabrication de batteries ; mais l’industrie est-elle prête à faire face à la demande ? Par Kylie Williams
Un monument symbole d’avenir La construction modulaire permet de poursuivre l’agrandissement de la mine K3 de The Mosaic Company à Esterhazy dans les temps et le budget escomptés Par Kylie Williams
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Jobs well done
pring is always the busiest time at CIM’s national office in Montreal, and this year’s mountain of deadlines seems particularly steep. Members of the Conferences and Exhibitions team are buzzing, working out the final details of the many happenings large and small that, pulled together, make the annual conference our flagship event. At the same time that this issue was nearing completion, the new CIM.org site – a refreshing and mobile-friendly update to the online face of the Institute – was in final countdown to launch. If you have not yet paid a visit, you should. Beyond the smooth navigation and fresh look, the site will also lead you to a new feature for CIM: CIM Link. It is a community platform for members to find one another, start discussions and stay plugged in to what is happening throughout the Institute with its many societies, branches and subject matter experts. I hope we will find you there. With each person who participates, the Link becomes that much stronger. At the magazine, we have a fresh new feature of our own – our new news editor Matthew Parizot. Matt did his first tour with us last year when he spent the summer as our editorial intern. In the meantime he built on that experience, writing for various sections of the magazine and showing he had the talent and the curiosity to earn a place on the editorial team. In addition to being the motor that drives our news section, Matt is the imagination behind our Instagram account @cim_mag, and definitely worth a follow. I am also very happy to welcome back our earliest intern and erstwhile editor Herb Mathisen to the pages of the mag-
This issue’s cover Underground at the K3 expansion project. Courtesy of The Mosaic Company/ Greg Huszar
azine. To observe the 20th anniversary of the creation of Nunavut, he pitched us a piece on how the Inuit secured subsurface rights to some of the choicest parcels of the territory (“The long view,” pg. 16). It is a story of tough negotiating and efficient consensus-building, the positive impacts of which continue to be felt by the territory. Finally, I would like to tip my hat to Gillian Woodford for “Green goop yields a breakthrough,” pg. 32, who dug into the story behind a recent CIM Journal paper as part of our focus on closure and reclamation. Woodford demonstrated, much as the Laurentian University researchers who authored the paper did, that green tailings goop, aka microalgae, rewards the inquiring mind.
Ryan Bergen, Editor-in-chief email@example.com @Ryan_CIM_Mag
Editor-in-chief Ryan Bergen, firstname.lastname@example.org Executive editor Angela Hamlyn, email@example.com Managing editor Michele Beacom, firstname.lastname@example.org Section editors Tom DiNardo, email@example.com; Matthew Parizot, firstname.lastname@example.org Contributors Tony Andrews, Virginia Heffernan, Jax Jacobsen, Cecilia Keating, Sara King-Abadi, Sue Longo, Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco, Herb Mathisen, Christopher Pollon, Kaaria Quash, Kylie Williams, Gillian Woodford Editorial advisory board Mohammad Babaei Khorzhoughi, Vic Pakalnis, Steve Rusk, Nathan Stubina Translations Karen Rolland and Cision Layout and design Clò Communications Inc., www.clocommunications.com Published 8 times a year by: Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum 1250 – 3500 de Maisonneuve Blvd. West Westmount, QC H3Z 3C1 Tel.: 514.939.2710; Fax: 514.939.2714 www.cim.org; email@example.com
Advertising sales Dovetail Communications Inc. Tel.: 905.886.6640; Fax: 905.886.6615; www.dvtail.com Senior Account Executives Janet Jeffery, firstname.lastname@example.org, 905.707.3529 Christopher Forbes, email@example.com, 905.707.3516 Edyta (Edith) Dhillon, firstname.lastname@example.org, 905.707.3525 Subscriptions Online version included in CIM Membership ($197/yr). Print version for institutions or agencies – Canada: $275/yr (AB, BC, MB, NT, NU, SK, YT add 5% GST; ON add 13% HST; QC add 5% GST + 9.975% PST; NB, NL, NS, PE add 15% HST). Print version for institutions or agencies – USA/International: US$325/yr. Online access to single copy: $50. Copyright©2019. All rights reserved. ISSN 1718-4177. Publications Mail No. 09786. Postage paid at CPA Saint-Laurent, QC. Dépôt légal: Bibliothèque nationale du Québec. The Institute, as a body, is not responsible for statements made or opinions advanced either in articles or in any discussion appearing in its publications.
Printed in Canada
8 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
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A privilege and a pleasure gramming, in addition to focused and topical professional development opportunities to better serve its members. Positioning CIM as a “trusted voice” within the Canadian mining, minerals, materials and petroleum sector remains my priority. As a 10,000-plus-member-strong technical institute, CIM supports these sectors by providing highquality, fact-based technical content and expertise. This past year CIM was actively engaged with the Energy and Mines Ministers Conference, the Canadian Securities Adminis-
CIM is on “ solid footing with an optimistic future.”
y tenure as CIM President is coming to a close and what a year! The opportunity has been an amazing experience. I had the chance to attend many branch, society and national events and have been consistently impressed by the professionalism, commitment and dedication of CIM volunteers and staff. To each one of you, thank you. You are the heart of CIM. When I started in this role, I proclaimed that we were stronger together and aimed to create a more connected and collaborative community. During my presidential year, I witnessed firsthand the power of this collaborative spirit. Under the theme of One CIM, we are working to further build ties between CIM’s various branches, societies and committees, and to share best practices. This year’s CIM Convention is one example of how that effort has paid off. Together, we assembled a strong, dynamic and integrated technical program. This year, CIM offered more unified and niche pro10 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
trators, and other key organizations. More recently CIM led the formation of the Global Minerals Professionals Alliance initiative, “Global Action on Tailings.” These new and ongoing activities, including those related to mineral resources and reserves, best practices and standards development demonstrate the significant contributions that CIM, its staff members and volunteers make to our industry. With the leadership and dedication of our past presidents, most recently Garth Kirkham, Michael Winship, and Ken Thomas, our talented future presidents Roy Slack and Samantha Espley, and the inspirational vision of CEO Angela Hamlyn, CIM is on solid footing with an optimistic future. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout this wonderful year: CIM National staff, Council members, CIM members and volunteers, my employer – Natural Resources Canada, my staff, and my family. It has been an honour to serve as your 2018-2019 CIM President.
Janice Zinck CIM President
“ENERGY SAVINGS REPORTED IN THE RANGE OF 25% TO 60% ARE VERY ENCOURAGING AS THEY INDICATE THAT POTENTIALLY HALF OF THE ENERGY SPENT FOR VENTILATION COULD BE SAVED.” — Vale Totten Mine
Great mines think alike.
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CIM – Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum
Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum
Canadian Institute of Mining
RE: INNOVATION TO IMPROVE THE EXPLORATION ODDS (FEB ’19)
Since that time there has not been a single year in which expenditure has not been higher than in ANY year of the 20th century. Before we consider innovation, we need to find out what we were doing right last century that we are doing wrong this century. New toys are great to the degree that they are at the disposal of the field geologist out in the field. – John McIntyre
RE: THE MINER’S BIBLE (SEP ‘17/OCT ’17) RE: SWEET SUCCESS (DEC ‘18/JAN ’19)
It’s a long road from prospecting to production. Well done! – Marty Dilworth
US Pres. Herbert Hoover, a mining engineer along with his wife Lou, a geologist, translated Metallica from Latin to English. Their work garnered their induction into the Mining Hall of Fame. – Mining Hall of Fame @nmhfm
RE: HOW TO WRITE A BETTER FEASIBILITY STUDY (FEB ’19)
So, a feasibility study needs to return to what it was before. An objective analysis of the potential of the project, not a promotional pamphlet. – Hugo Dominguez Great advice for those in the feasibility stage, although it seems that we are at a stage where many companies are moving forward on PEAs and Pre-Feasibility level studies. I think these studies should focus a lot more on potential risks and mitigations than on the bottom line. – Chris McCann, P.Eng
Came here for @Metallica, left disappointed. – Dean Reimer @deanreimer
RE: JOHN EDWARD DUTRIZAC (1940-2019)
John was a leader, a mentor and someone I was honoured to work with for a number of years. He will be missed by the community. – Carl Weatherell @cweatherell A remarkable man who influenced many and his industry. My deepest sympathies to his family. – Samantha Espley
CORRECTIONS In the column, “Social environmental disclosure and the risk of inconsistency” (Mar/Apr ’19 p. 47), it was incorrectly noted that the disclosure guidelines would be published at the end of April. A draft of the guidelines will be available on the ESRS site and open for public comment in the near future. In the piece,“DYNOmine podcast gives the industry a voice” (Mar/Apr ’19 p. 28), it was incorrectly stated that South African 12 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
women were only in underground as recently as 2002. The correct year women started working in underground South African mines was 1996. In “Return to bloom/Le nouvel épanouissement de Lac Bloom" (Mar/Apr ‘19 p. 66/85), we misstated the expected cost of completing the unfinished expansion at the Bloom Lake mine. The figure of $600 to $700 million should have been stated in Canadian rather than U.S. dollars.
Courtesy of Drone Delivery Canada
Courtesy of FLSmidth
tools of the trade
Bigger, better drones
Bridging the data gap According to Maestro Digital Mine co-founder and vice-president of sales Michael Gribbons, Maestro developed the EthernetI/O from what it viewed as a “gap” between the digital communication needs of underground mines and insufficient technological solutions. Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) that manage various underground data inputs and outputs – such as water and air flow, fuel levels or even control of automatic doors – can be costly, complex to install and may not be suited for the rough environment of an underground mine. According to Gribbons, the EthernetI/O is different. “This is really dialed in for an underground application,” he said. “Taking a device like a PLC requires putting it into a mine-hardened cabinet, wiring all the power supplies, wiring all the inputs and outputs and any sort of relays and all this associated equipment. Our device is right out of the box and ready to go.” Compiled by Matthew Parizot
14 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Wear panels with impact FLSmidth’s latest line of wear panels, the FerroCer 22, combines the strength of steel with the durability of ceramics. The result is a hybrid wear panel that the company says will last significantly longer than steel wear panels. “We all know that glass and ceramics are very hard, but this is the first product that brings ceramics to use in the impact industry,” FLSmidth wear and thermal product manager Danny Barric said. “Ceramic does not corrode [and it’s] not sensitive to temperature, positive or negative.” The panels are light – only weighing about six pounds each – and are installed using a bolt and nut, leading to simple installation and replacement, further reducing overall downtime, according to the company. The panels can be used in a variety of applications such as chutes, feed boxes and vibrating screen boxes.
Courtesy of Maestro Digital Mine
The usage of drones in the mining industry is still being explored, and Drone Delivery Canada’s (DDC) new Condor model is attempting to further expand the range of what drones can do. The Condor is DDC’s biggest drone yet, and is capable of hauling up to 180 kg of cargo as far as 200 km, according to the company. More than just selling the drones, DDC says it will also help ensure that the drones will be ready for takeoff once they arrive on site by conducting test flights and training users on its proprietary flight system. “We’re not [a company] where you buy a drone and we wash our hands of the relationship,” DDC senior vice-president of operations and strategy Michael Zahra said. “It would include a maintenance contract, it would include training, and we could be involved in the operation depending on what the customer’s needs are.” DDC expects the Condor to be ready for the market by the end of summer 2019.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS APPEL À CONTRIBUTIONS Join forces with some of the brightest minds and share your expertise by submitting a Technical Paper to CIM Journal. Rejoignez une équipe de scientifiques brillants et partagez vos connaissances en envoyant un document technique au CIM Journal.
Barrick’s maligned gold project faces legal uncertainty
Finding promise in Canada’s new federal budget
Newcrest obtains a majority share of Imperial’s Red Chris copper mine
Yukon’s historic Keno Hill mine might be given a second chance
Developments The long view On Nunavut’s 20th birthday, a look back at how Inuit secured the territory’s best mining lands In late July 1991, negotiators with the federal government and the Tunngavik Federation of Nunavut (TFN) sat in the community hall in Coppermine, N.W.T., on the cusp of a monumental achievement–the completion of a comprehensive agreement that assigned ownership over each square metre of land in the future territory of Nunavut. This last of six regional land-selection meetings included a 24-hour negotiating session. “Nobody seemed to be really tired, even though it was right around the clock. It was very important,” said James Eetoolook, vice-president of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), Nunavut’s birthright corporation. Eetoolook watched his body language – sluggishness might betray weakness and open the window for government negotiators to offer smaller or less valuable parcels of land. “We had to be on alert.” No one could be blamed for feeling burnt out. Motivated by a lack of political representation, Inuit had floated the idea of Nunavut nearly two decades earlier. Following years of main table negotiations, Nunavut’s agreement-in-principle was signed in 1990 and both sides spent the better part of two years travelling to communities across the Nunavut Settlement Area to figure out which lands Inuit 16 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Courtesy of Underhill Geomatics
By Herb Mathisen
Isolated boundary corner on the Nunavut Land Claim. Near Taloyoak, 2000.
would hold surface and subsurface mineral rights over. The stakes were high. “The whole vision of the negotiations of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was to become self-sufficient and selfreliant,” said Paul Quassa, a former Nunavut premier and, at the time, chief negotiator for TFN, precursor to NTI. “Knowing very well that our territory is rich in hard minerals, we wanted to ensure that we got the best
potential sites for future developments.”
Hired guns Some areas were already familiar to Inuit due to their intimate knowledge of their homeland. Inuit had gone unacknowledged in the official accounts of some mineral discoveries despite having shown them to prospectors. (The iron ore anomaly that would become the Mary River mine was
Courtesy of Underhill Geomatics
Nunasi Helicopters A-Star at right water meeting. Taloyoak, 2000.
known by Inuit as Nuluujaat – or “looks like buttocks” in Inuktitut – as a landmark on a frequently travelled
route.) Still, Inuit leaders acknowledged they would need help filling out the map to zero in on the most
prospective lands if they were serious about ensuring their future prosperity. They put out a call for experienced mineral advisors. Hans Bielenstein, a well-connected geologist representing Associated Mining Consultants Ltd. in Calgary, heard about the opportunity and reached out to Murray Pyke, a college acquaintance. Pyke was vice-president of Comaplex Resources, a hard-rock mining firm with experience in the North. Comaplex held mineral leases in the region, but that did not worry TFN, said Robert McPherson, who was recruited by Pyke along with colleague Phil Mudry. “They just wanted some expertise, so we became their mineral consultants during the land claim process.” McPherson immediately got to work putting a mineral resources inventory together for the entire Eastern Arctic. He spent long days in N.W.T. resident geologist Bill Pagdham’s office, copying reams of
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May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 17
Courtesy of Underhill Geomatics
tors, but made them all the more determined to secure the best lands possible so royalties would flow directly to them.
Consensus and control
Nunavut Land Claim survery near Cambridge Bay, NU, 1996. (Cairn not to specifications. The pilot did it!)
assessment work files. “Just everything we could get a hold of,” he said. “We compiled every mineral showing in existence, going through all the records in Yellowknife and so on.” To represent the data so it was easily understood by the TFN team, McPherson created maps that used dots to depict notable mineral showings. “The bigger the dot, the better the showing – the more potential it seemed to have,” he said. The work involved some alchemy due to the inconsistency of information available for such vast tracts of land that had been explored to varying degrees. They combed volcanic belts and known mineral areas, said McPherson, ignoring lands covered by granite, where mineralization was less likely. “We were more concerned with the size of the showing and the continuity, rather than where it was, because they were often very remote.” The federal government presented a land quantum at the beginning, which outlined that Inuit could own surface rights to roughly 16 per cent of the territory totalling 356,000 km² – and subsurface rights to less than two per cent. This disappointed Inuit negotia18 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Inuit negotiators had a balancing act to play. They had to weigh the priorities of community members, which sometimes meant foregoing surface lands preferred by elders for their hunting or historical importance, and selecting a parcel of land that meant very little on the surface but which held great potential mineral value. Leaders had to make these difficult decisions during negotiations – and sell them to Nunavummiut, the people of Nunavut, afterwards. Although negotiators did take the opportunity to call up elders’ committees in different communities to gauge feedback on the latest offer. From the start, the federal government team – led by Tom Molloy – insisted on excluding any lands already leased or staked by companies. This led to an impasse and the feeling from many Inuit that the federal government was giving them table scraps. In response, they threatened to focus on acquiring surface rights surrounding those claims and leases. The potential administrative and fiscal nightmare dawned on the feds: they would have to go out and survey the precise boundaries of the thousands of claims in this northern region. (Many of the claims would likely lapse before they even finished the job.) In Resolute in January 1991, the feds backed off so Inuit could acquire ownership of thirdparty staked ground. Six months later, the last of the six community selections processes wrapped up in Coppermine – called Kugluktuk today. On May 25, 1993, the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) was signed, making Inuit the largest freehold landowners in Canada. Today, all three operating mines in Nunavut are located on lands Inuit own some subsurface title to: Baffinland’s Mary River iron ore mine in the Qikiqtani region, Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank gold mine in the Kivalliq and
TMAC’s Doris mine at Hope Bay in the Kitikmeot. The same goes for Agnico Eagle’s Meliadine mine, outside of Rankin Inlet, slated to begin commercial production this spring. Most of the territory’s promising advanced exploration projects are also on Inuit owned lands. (A notable exception is Peregrine Diamonds Ltd.’s Chidliak project: “Diamonds sort of just appear any old place and that would be hard to assess,” McPherson said, explaining the omission.) For McPherson, this was a fascinating period in his career. He fondly recalls breaking for lunch to eat raw caribou in a school in Pond Inlet, and marvelling at the pragmatic consensus approach Inuit leaders took at the bargaining table. “They all had their say. The discussion would go around the table once, and maybe once again, and bingo – it was decided.” Now 89, he is proud to have helped Inuit benefit from mineral development. “It makes me feel quite gleeful.” The agreement not only gives Inuit an incentive to develop lands, but also a say in how it is done. “In the past, we were not notified if something was going to be happening in the Nunavut area,” said Eetoolook. “[Now] any company that wants to do work in those areas has to come to NTI and the Regional Inuit Association.” Where Inuit own subsurface rights, companies negotiate a mineral exploration agreement and later a production lease, which sets out a standard royalty rate of 12 per cent paid directly to NTI. (On Crown lands, Inuit receive half of the first $2 million in royalties and then five per cent thereafter.) Companies enter into Inuit Impact and Benefit Agreements when Inuit own surface rights to set out the project’s socioeconomic terms and conditions.
The legacy “It was a hard slog at the beginning, where we were spending much more each year on administration costs and promotion than we were receiving in annual rents or anything,” said Carson Gillis, NTI director of lands. “But 20 years later, it’s starting to pay off.” Most
developments deposits being mined in Nunavut right now are on grandfathered leases established between companies and the Crown before the NLCA was signed, but royalties and rental fees flow directly to NTI. NTI has collected about $55 million in royalties from Agnico Eagle’s Meadowbank so far and $10 million from TMAC at the Doris mine. And that is just the beginning. Many satellite deposits slated to be mined by established companies are on nongrandfathered lands where Inuit own subsurface rights and have direct agreements with the companies. This includes Meadowbank’s Vault extension, where Agnico Eagle signed a production lease with NTI five years ago, the first of its kind. “We’ve only just started on our royalty cash flow,” said Gillis. “We’re at the very front end of it.” In March 2019, Quassa was in Toronto to attend PDAC and had the opportunity to reflect on the land
selections as Nunavut’s 20th birthday approached on April 1. “The sole purpose was to take advantage of future mining development taking place, that Inuit would get royalties out of these lands that we selected. Sure enough, this is exactly what’s happening. And
Iamgold makes significant workforce cuts at Westwood Iamgold will be reducing the size of the workforce at its Westwood gold mine in Quebec by 32 per cent starting this week, the company announced on March 19. The reductions are a “stabilizing cost control measure” as a result of the mine’s current stage of development as well as its 2019 production guidance of 100,000 to 120,000 ounces, according to the company.
it’s a great feeling to see the vision of the day now taking place.” CIM To learn more about the land selections process, read Robert McPherson’s book, New Owners in their Own Land: Minerals and Inuit Land Claims.
The mine is located 40 kilometres west of Val d’Or in southwestern Québec and employs approximately 455 Iamgold employees – around 60 of whom will be cut – as well as independent contractors, according to the workers union Métallos, which represents Westwood workers. In 2018, Westwood’s year-end gold production totalled 129,000 ounces – three per cent higher than the year before – but with a lower head grade of 7.16 g/t Au compared to 7.8 g/t Au in 2017. Additionally, the cost of sales per ounce sold and cost of sales per ounce
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May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 19
Courtesy of Iamgold
In a statement released March 20, Métallos said that they will request that Iamgold cut its contract workers before any regular employees and that they assist cut workers in finding new employment. In its outlook for 2019, Iamgold Iamgold’s Westwood gold mine located in southwestern Quebec. stated that producproduced increased by five and seven tion in the mine will come primarily per cent respectively from the previous from two of the six planned mining year. Iamgold primarily credits the blocks, with a third beginning producincreases in cost to higher labour and tion sometime mid-year. mine production costs associated with Iamgold president and CEO Steve a new labour agreement signed by Letwin stated that the cuts were necesWestwood union members in Septem- sary in order for the mine to reach a ber 2018, which included a lump sum profitable state. payment of US$1.1 million or US$38 “We sincerely regret that our valued per ounce produced and US$38 per colleagues are leaving us and we are ounce sold. providing redeployment assistance,”
20 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Letwin said. “We concluded that this difficult decision had to be made in conjunction with planned reductions after assessing the balance of production levels and costs. We remain focused on developing a long-term plan for Westwood that is both safe and profitable. On behalf of everyone at Iamgold, I express appreciation to all of our Westwood employees for their continued hard work and commitment.” The company said that it is working on a revised life of mine plan for Westwood, which it expects to deliver in the fourth quarter of 2019. – Matthew Parizot
Chilean supreme court annuls Barrick PascuaLama closure decision The fate of Barrick Gold’s PascuaLama gold project in Chile remains
uncertain after a March 14 ruling by the country’s supreme court annulled a decision made by the Antofagasta Environmental Court, which rejected four of the five initial closure orders. The Chilean government’s environmental regulator – Superintendencia del Medio Ambiente – ordered that Barrick close its surface facilities back in January 2018 due to concerns of environmental damage and water contamination during the project development. These orders were later reviewed by the Antofagasta Environmental Court, which delivered its decision in October 2018. Barrick says that the decision by the AEC was annulled on procedural grounds and that it was not a party to the process. While the supreme court decision annulled the closure decision, it did not review the merits of the environmental regulator’s orders, which remains in effect and is subject to appeal by Barrick. The case will return
to the environmental court to be reviewed by a different panel of judges, a process that Barrick says could take months. Rather than being pleased by the ruling, Barrick’s CEO Mark Bristow said that the decision was unhelpful as it delayed a decision Barrick was ordered to close all surface facilities at Pascua-Lama in on the future of Pas- January 2018. cua-Lama. Back in January, the company said that it nearby glaciers as well as to the waterwould be embarking on a pre-feasibilshed compelled Barrick to halt that ity study for an underground mine at project in 2013. Pascua-Lama, which was “consistent” In February 2019, Bristow met with with closing of the surface facilities. Chile’s Minister of Mining, Baldo The project, high in the Andes, lies on Prokurica, as the company was revieweither side of the Argentine-Chilean ing its Latin American strategy. border. Initially, the project was con“Chile is an investor-friendly counceived as an open-pit operation, but try, with a significant mineral endowconcerns over the potential impact ment, and which encourages the
May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 21
Courtesy of Barrick Gold
FROM THE WIRE Regulus Resources has appointed Adam Greening to the position of vicepresident, corporate development. Greening will be joining Regulus from Yamana Gold and is a professional geologist with over 12 years of experience in the industry. Anaconda Mining has announced that Kevin Bullock, former founder of Volta Resources, which was acquired by B2Gold in 2013, has joined the company as its new CEO. He will be replacing Dustin Angelo, who will remain with the company as president. In order to help develop its Arrow uranium deposit in northwest Saskatchewan, NexGen has recruited Brad Wall, former premier of Saskatchewan, to its board of directors. Wall will be replacing Craig Parry, a founding member of the NexGen board of directors. Hudbay Minerals has received the approved Mine Plan of Operations from the U.S. Forest Service for its Rosemont copper project in Arizona. According to Hudbay president Alan Hair, “Rosemont is now a fully permitted, shovel-ready copper project.” A group of Guyana Goldfields “concerned shareholders” have opted to engage an independent consulting practice to review the resource model at Guyana’s Aurora gold mine as a counter to the company’s official model released in April. Guyana says its plan is “prudent and achievable,” and that shareholders should ignore the commissioned review. Kirkland Lake Gold has announced that Eric Sprott will be retiring as chairman and board member of the company. On his retirement Sprott said that he “fully [expects] to remain a very interested and engaged shareholder of the company.” Jeff Parr will replace Sprott as interim chairman. CanAlaska Uranium announced that it has agreed to purchase the Manibridge nickel mine in Manitoba from Pure Nickel. The Thompson Nickel Belt, where the mine is located, is the fifth largest and third highest grade sulphide nickel belt on Earth, according to CanAlaska.
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development of mining projects,” Bristow said. “We believe that despite the legacy challenges relating to the Pascua-Lama project there are exciting opportunities here, especially in the El Indio Belt, and we will be pursuing this in line with our strategy of creating value for all our stakeholders, includ-
ing the governments, and people, of our host countries.” The company also reported in the same month that it had recorded a $429 million pre-tax impairment on the project and the downgrading of the project’s reserves to measured and indicated resources. – Matthew Parizot
Exploring with electromagnetism Beauce Gold Fields is using new surveying technology to find a historic gold deposit By Virginia Heffernan
Montreal-based Beauce Gold Fields is using a time-domain electromagnetic (TDEM) system developed in Russia to find the hard rock source of the Beauce placer gold deposits in southern Quebec. The company hopes that by separating out induced polarization (IP) and conductivity measurements, the highresolution system will be able to see past the conductive black shales – commonly mistaken for sulphides – that have stymied previous geophysical attempts to detect the source of the gold in the Gilbert River Valley near StSimones-les-Mines, about 100 km south of Quebec City. Preliminary testing along a local road has detected conductors and areas of high induced polarization (IP) in both conductive (shales) and resistive (sandstones and volcanic rocks) zones, suggesting the presence of disseminated sulphides, said Marc RicherLaflèche, a professor at the Institute National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) in Quebec City, who is leading Beauce’s geophysical team. “This demonstrates the importance of being able to separate the electrical conductivity and induced polarization components,” he said. Added to that feature is a horizontal resolution of about 15 centimetres, allowing the team to detect relatively narrow sulphide mineralized bodies, such as gold veins.
Richer-Laflèche decided to give the mobile TDEM system a try after reading several articles written by Professor Georgy Trigubovich and Dr. Anton Chernyshev of Aerogeophysical Surveys, a leading airborne geophysical company in Russia. Trigubovich, the deputy director of science in geophysics at the Siberian Research Institute of Geology, Geophysics and Mineral Resources, has developed a number of innovative techniques to improve the reliability of resource predictions. His academic colleague Chernyshev specializes in using mathematical methods to solve geophysical problems. The Beauce ground survey follows an audio magnetotelluric, gravimetric and geological survey conducted by INRS to detect discontinuities that might represent faults or shear zones that could be conduits for gold mineralization. The comprehensive survey detected a 1,500-metre-deep structure underneath the placer deposits and multiple conductors that could be either graphite or sulphide mineralization. The TDEM survey will better characterize the location and physical characteristics of these anomalies. In 1846, the discovery of a 2.5ounce nugget in the Gilbert River near St-Simon-Les-Mines triggered Canada’s first gold rush. Beauce, formerly HPQ Silicon Resources, holds claims cover-
developments ing a six-kilometre-long unconsolidated sedimentary unit that hosted placer gold mines from the 1860s to the 1960s. Although the mines produced an estimated 1.5 short tons of gold, the source of the placer deposits has never been found. More recent discoveries of gold in the saprolite — formed by deep weathering of the bedrock surface — suggest that the source lies nearby, but a oneto 25-metre thick cover of quaternary till and dense forest have made prospecting in the area a challenge. According to Richer-Laflèche, the Russian technology has located both gold and diamondiferous kimberlites in Siberia. It has been adapted to operate on relatively narrow Canadian forest roads and can be towed behind a snowmobile on land and behind a boat on lakes and rivers. The system uses an induction loop powered by currents of 10 to more than 50 amps and two receiving antennas positioned to allow optimal decoupling of conductivity and IP.
Depending on the power of the current, the number of turns of the induction loop and the conductivity of the ground, the system can probe depths of up to 250 metres. “The critical point of the method is the configuration of the transmitterreceiver system and the quality of the algorithms used to separate the electrical conductivity and IP components,” said Richer-Lafleche, who is also testing the technology on Falco Resource’s Noralex project in the Rouyn-Noranda mining camp, where historical drilling returned low-grade gold values over wide intercepts. Beauce is currently using the system on country roads and will expand the survey to agricultural fields and private forest roads at the end of the year. “Using this new state-of-the-art exploration technology will add to our understanding of the geology and help us reach our goal of finding a hard rock source of the famous Beauce placer gold deposits,” said Beauce president Patrick Levasseur. CIM
Mining Association of Canada sees promise in 2019 budget
operations experience increased costs, mainly due to the lack of proper infrastructure. “Mining is the largest private sector driver in Canada’s North, directly employing approximately [eight per cent] of the total territorial population. However, it is much more expensive... to build the same precious or base metal mine in the North than in a centrally located region, and 70 [per cent] of this cost differential derives from the infrastructure deficit,” MAC president and CEO Pierre Gratton said. “The future of Canada’s mining industry lies increasingly in remote and northern regions, but will remain unrealized unless we close the infrastructure gap.” The budget also allocates resources to bring high-speed internet to rural communities across the country, including to communities in the North. MAC further mentioned the budget’s focus on work-training initiatives, which includes the new Canada
Despite having reservations about the future of Canada’s competitiveness in the mining sector, the Mining Association of Canada (MAC) announced that it viewed the Liberals’ 2019 budget proposal as a net positive for the industry. In a March 19 press release, MAC expressed its support for the over $700 million of investment in the country’s Arctic territories over the next ten years, which will provide the communities living there with access to more roads and expand hydroelectric plants as well as create clean energy projects in small communities. There are currently several operating mines in the Arctic, such as Baffinland’s Mary River iron mine in Nunavut and Rio Tinto and Dominion Diamond’s Diavik diamond mine in the Northwest Territories. However, these
Michele Buchignani, a former director with Teachers’ Private Capital, CIBC World Markets and CIBC Capital Partners, has joined Copper Mountain Mining’s board of directors. Copper Mountain’s chairman Jim O’Rourke referred to Buchignani as “an outstanding addition with an ideal skill set for our company.” Centerra Gold and Premier Gold Mines announced that the provincial environmental assessment for its Hardrock project in Ontario was approved. The companies plan to continue developing and de-risking the project over the course of the year. Geoscience BC will do an airborne survey on northern Vancouver Island to help identify mineral potential. The results of the research will be made public, and complement an earlier survey of the neighbouring area published in 2013. David Cataford has been appointed to the position of CEO at Champion Iron, replacing Michael O’Keeffe who will remain in his current position as executive chairman. Cataford oversaw Champion’s purchase and subsequent revival of the Bloom Lake mine in Quebec. Detour Gold announced that it has selected Michael McMullen to be its new CEO. McMullen has 25 years of experience in the industry, and was the former CEO of Stillwater Mining from 2013 to 2017. Bill Williams, who was acting has interim CEO since January, will remain on the board of directors. Trevali Mining has announced the appointment of Ricus Grimbeek as its new president and CEO, replacing Dr. Mark Cruise. Before joining Trevali, Grimbeek was the COO of Vale Base Metals North America as well as president and COO of South32 Australia. Mine planning software company Commit Works will be opening an office in Sudbury, Ontario, as its first expansion into North America. Commit Works has hired Joseph Gladu as its North American vice-president and Derek Polano as its adoption and results manager. – Compiled by Matthew Parizot
May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 23
Training Benefit: a tax benefit that includes a credit to help employers cover the cost of training fees as well as an employment insurance training benefit to provide income while learning new skills. “We are pleased to see a commitment to skills training emphasized in today’s budget,” Gratton said. “With the mining industry expected to need close to 100,000 new workers over the next 10 years, it is essential that skills development and training be a priority, and the new Canada Training Benefit is a step in the right direction.” Gratton also praised the budget’s investment in training programs that specifically target Indigenous people. Days earlier, on March 14, MAC published its annual Facts & Figures report on current trends and the state of the mining industry. In the report, MAC stated that Canada – which has long been the dominant nation for mineral production, mining finance,
safety and more, according to MAC – has seen its competitiveness erode. The report mentions that Canada is losing its piece of the exploration spending pie to countries like Australia and had moved down in the production rankings for seven of the 16 commodities for which it was once a top five producer. It also added only four new mining projects in 2017 and two mining firms in 2018, compared to over 200 firms in Australia in the same year. For Gratton, however, it seems that while the new budget does not directly address these issues, it still represents progress in making the mining sector more competitive. “Many of the commitments included in Budget 2019… will play a role in improving Canada’s competitiveness, particularly in mining,” Gratton said. “Today, the federal government has taken several steps that reflect our industry’s priorities on
northern regions, in addition to our future workforce.” – Matthew Parizot
New communications guidelines help mines get connected The Global Mining Guidelines Group (GMG) published part three of its underground communications infrastructure guidelines on March 18, this time with a focus on general guidelines. The 54-page document includes instructions on administrative tasks, general topology, network security as well as other factors that might concern mining companies looking to integrate digital communications into their operations. The guidelines also take into account concerns that might arise once the network has already been installed, such as cybersecurity and remote control rooms.
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developments Symbiotic Solutions principal innovator and GMG vice-chair of working groups Andrew Scott referred to the guidelines as “a key general reference for any company looking to implement communications infrastructure at any of their operations or new projects.” According to GMG, the guidelines were developed in response to the rising impact of communications technologies in mining operations. Companies are increasingly turning to fully connected underground mines that allow employees to better communicate with one another as well as the usage of autonomous mining equipment. The new guidelines mark the third entry in GMG’s underground commu-
nications series. The first two sets of guidelines were published in 2017, focusing on “Positioning and Needs Analysis” and “Scenarios and Applications,” respectively. According to Scott, the third entry is for more practical use. “[It] provides a sound foundation for selecting the appropriate communications infrastructure, assisting with the decision-making process,” he said. A test case from Agnico Eagle’s LaRonde mine in north-west Quebec is also included in the guidelines, detailing how Agnico implemented new LTE technology when its Wi-Fi connection was insufficient to match the need for increased automation. The example mentions Agnico’s operators being
“enthusiastic about using mobile phones for their applications.” Agnico plans to continue to integrate LTE technology into its older workings at LaRonde. For GMG chair Michelle Ash, these guidelines are meant to help increase adoption of underground communications technologies throughout the industry. “[T]hese technologies are now at the heart of mining safety and productivity and are becoming essential for running safe, productive and efficient underground mining operations,” Ash said. “Anything we can do to speed up the rate of adoption in our members’ operations will make a positive impact on the industry.” – Matthew Parizot
Bringing home the gold Canadian all-female mine rescue team nabs the top spot at inter-school competition
Jillian Newell had always wanted to be on an all-female mine rescue team. The third-year mining engineering student joined the University of British Columbia’s mine rescue team in 2015, became president in 2017 and captain in 2018. She had already competed in three mine rescue competitions on coed teams and she wanted to see how an all-women team would perform. “We’ve got to show that there is a place for us here, that we do well and we can work together,” said Newell. She got her wish in February when the UBC women’s mine rescue team won the biennial Mine Emergency Response Development (MERD) at the Colorado School of Mines in Idaho Springs, Colorado. In the past UBC has not had enough women join to make a full team, Newell explained. A typical mine rescue team has five people plus a coordinator, but it just so happened that this time enough women applied. “[We had] six girls who are super passionate about it, [who] wanted to win together, and we just went for it,” Newell said.
Courtesy of UBC Mine Rescue Team
By Sara King-Abadi
UBC’s mine rescue team took first overall at the mine rescue competition in Colorado.
The team – made up of Newell, Laurel Acacia, Jamie Abels, Emma Dodds, Nikita Paskiewich and Katie Wood – went through an intense, week-long training in Kamloops leading up to the competition. The team set up a mock mine and ran scenarios, such as treating
patients, putting out fires and putting people into the basket stretchers while under oxygen, with coaches Brandon Moe and Chris Gamble from the New Afton Mine, which won top honours in the underground mine rescue division in B.C.’s Provincial Mine Rescue & First May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 25
Aid Competition last year. “They are amazing,” Newell said of their coaches. “These people win first place everywhere they go.” Newell also wanted to keep the training local, instead of bringing in a coach from Ontario as they have in the past. The MERD competition is made up of three parts – the technician challenge, first aid challenge and field challenge – and pits teams against one another from across Canada, the United States, and Germany. The UBC women’s team placed first overall, but also won the first aid category – something that was a personal point of pride for Acacia, who had the highest level of first aid training on the team but had had to bow out of the competition last minute due to a family emergency. “It really just made me so proud of those girls,” Acacia said of the team’s performance in first aid. “It’s just the best feeling.”
Part of the inspiration for Newell to have an all-female team came from a female teacher she had. The teacher had told Newell that in the past, she had not been allowed on the mine rescue team for a company she had worked for because she was a woman. Newell explained that she is also competitive by nature, so joining the team was a no-brainer. “It’s a way to compete, stay active and also learn a whole bunch of emergency rescue stuff, which is a lot of fun,” she said. For Acacia, the win was a step in the right direction. “It’s encouraging for younger girls who might be considering the mining industry and are a little bit unsure,” she said. “You don’t need to be afraid to try these things and just because maybe it’s not something that is stereotypically a women’s role doesn’t really matter.” Newell, as captain, was first on the scene in the first aid challenge in
order to assess the situation and make sure it was safe for her team. She entered the darkened rock lab and could see only where her hard hat light was shining. Newell saw the first body, lying unconscious, then her light shone on the next person, whose eye was missing from its socket. In the competition, real people don special effects makeup to play the victims. Assessing the situation, Newell made a note to herself to send a team member who was more confident in her first aid training to the eyeless victim. “That was surprising,” Newell said. “I did not expect to see an eye popped out of the socket. Not at all. That was hilarious.” For 19-year-old Paskiewich – the team’s youngest member – the first aid challenge was the highlight of the competition as well, even if it meant getting a face full of fake blood. Acacia, Newell, and Paskiewich had gone over
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26 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
developments a scenario where a person was unconscious with an assumed spinal injury many times. “I went in and I knew exactly what to do,” she said. “It was systematic.” As Paskiewich leaned into to start treating a potential spinal cord injury, the victim bit down on a blood packet, spraying Paskiewich with blood. “It felt really good to win that one,” she laughed. A UBC mine rescue team will compete against collegiate-level teams and teams from mining companies at the Provincial Mine Rescue & First Aid Competition in William’s Lake, B.C., in June. It is unclear at this time who will be on the team, or whether it will be all-female. No matter who is on the team in June, for Newell, the victory has sent an inspiring message to a typically male-dominated industry. “We don’t need to do it exactly the way men will do it,” Newell said. “We [did] it our way and we won.” CIM
Imperial Metals announces joint venture agreement for Red Chris Imperial Metals will sell 70 per cent of its Red Chris copper and gold mine in British Columbia to Australian gold and copper producer Newcrest Mining for US$806.5 million, the company announced March 11. The joint venture comes at a time of financial strain for Imperial. In September 2018, the company announced that it would begin a financial and business restructuring process, and said a joint venture, asset sales, or a sale of the company were all on the table. Since the announcement, Imperial temporarily ceased production at its Mount Polley mine in January and has extended its credit facilities twice since the start of 2019. Imperial president Brian Kynoch said the agreement with Newcrest will
put his company in a much more advantageous financial position. “This transaction presents a compelling opportunity for all stakeholders as it allows Imperial to significantly strengthen its balance sheet while forging a strategic partnership with a leading global mining company,” Kynoch said. “With a stronger financial position and highly actionable path to exploiting the underground mining potential of Red Chris, Imperial will be in a much stronger position to create value and opportunities for its shareholders, stakeholders and the Tahltan Nation.” The company has stated that it will use the proceeds from the sale to repay some of its debt obligations, with the remainder being used as working capital. Newcrest will assume the responsibility of operating the mine in the future. Newcrest’s managing director and CEO Sandeep Biswas stated that the
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Courtesy of Imperial Metals
company will be able to turn Red Chris into a tier one operation – a mine that offers significant output at low cost. “We believe we can bring our unique technical capabilities to unlock the full value potential of this orebody in one of the premier gold districts in the world,” Biswas said. “The geology of Red Chris is similar to our Cadia orebodies in Australia and we will be applying our considerable experience in exploration, open pit mining, caving and processing to maximize the value of Red Chris and the opportunities in the surrounding region.” According to Newcrest’s most recent quarterly report, the Cadia operation – which consists of three mines in Western Australia – hit record quarterly and half-year gold production of 239,000 and 453,000 ounces, respectively, as well as a record low quarterly all-in sustaining cost of US$121 per ounce. The sale is expected to occur in the third quarter of 2019. – Matthew Parizot
Pretium Resources updates resource estimates for production ramp-up Pretium Resources announced on April 4 its updated mineral reserve, mineral resource and life of mine plan as it moves forward with its plan to increase production at its Brucejack gold mine in northwestern British Columbia. The company announced its intentions at the end of 2017 to increase its 28 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
production rate from 2,700 tonnes per siderable growth profile, Pretium is day to 3,800 tonnes. On April 3, well-positioned as a profitable gold Pretium said that it was on track to producer.” achieve that number by the end of the The updated profile for the mine year, and that it was prioritizing has changed other factors as well. The increasing the development rate of the length of the life of mine has been mine to 1,000 metres per month and reduced from 18 years in 2016 to 14 allowing access to more stopes. years in 2019. The proven and probaThe higher operating rate, in accorble mineral reserve grade has dance with information gained from decreased from 14.4 grams per tonne exploration and mining operation to 12.6 grams per tonne, which the completed since the company’s last company attributes to dilution from a estimate in 2016, has resulted in a higher amount of internal waste within higher anticipated average annual gold the mined stopes. production of 441,000 ounces. The The mine’s average operating costs previous target was 404,000 ounces have also increased from US$448 per annually over the life of the mine. Last ounce of gold sold to $502, and its year Brucejack produced 376,012 average all-in sustaining costs have ounces of gold and 422,562 ounces of increased to US$502 per ounce of gold silver. Pretium has also increased the sold from US$448 in 2016. Pretium pre-tax/post-tax net present value of says the increase in cost is a result of the mine to US$3,6/$2,58 billion from labour, environmental compliance and US$3,21/$2,09 billion assuming a gold snow removal. price of US$1,300 per ounce. The total proven and probable “Since achieving production at resources for Brucejack is now listed at Brucejack we have processed over 1.5 6.4 million ounces of gold and 30.5 million tonnes of ore and produced million ounces of silver (16 million over 500,000 ounces of gold, providing us a solid foundation of operating experience and key metrics to update the life of mine plan and outlook for the mine,” Pretium president and CEO Joseph Ovsenek said. “With Brucejack as our foundation Pretium Resources plans to bring production at its Brucejack gold and with our con- mine up to 3,800 tonnes per day by the end of 2019.
Courtesy of Pretium Resources
Imperial Metals’ Red Chris copper-gold mine.
developments Courtesy of Alexco Resource Corp.
tonnes of ore graded at 12.6 g/t gold and 59.3 g/t silver.) The update also mentions that, based on the company’s improved understanding of the deposit’s geology, the company might attain better results by mining along the direction of the corridors of high-grade gold mineralization. Pretium says it will test longitudinal longhold stoping this quarter, which is expected to reduce the amount of internal waste, potentially increasing the average stope grade. – Matthew Parizot
Alexco announces prefeasibility study to bring back Keno Hill Alexco Resource Corp. announced positive results from a pre-feasibility for its Keno Hill silver mine in Yukon, Canada, on March 29 – potentially outlining a future for an operation that has been suspended since 2013. According to the study, Keno Hill will have approximately eight years of mine life and has an annual mine production of 154,000 tonnes per year, with an average feed grade of 804 grams per tonne silver, 2.98 per cent lead, 4.13 per cent zinc and 0.34 grams per tonne gold. Overall, the mine is expected to produce 27.2 million ounces of silver, 67.2 million pounds of zinc and 65.4 million pounds of lead. Additionally, the study states that upon achieving commercial production, Keno Hill will have an all-in sustaining cost of US$11.98 per ounce of silver. The study places total capital costs at $23.2 million, thanks to the Keno Hill’s existing mine and mill infrastructure. The study examined resource estimates from all four of Keno Hill’s deposits: Bellekeno, Flame & Moth, Lucky Queen and Bermingham. The fifth deposit, Onek, was not included in the study. While Bellekeno was previously Alexco’s primary silver deposit in the region, this new pre-feasibility study centres mainly on the Bermingham and Flame & Moth deposits, with
Alexco’s new pre-feasibility study estimates eight years of mine life for Keno Hill.
Bellekeno providing supplemental production at the beginning of Keno Hill’s life and Lucky Queen during the final two years of mine life. “The results of the [pre-feasibility study] reflect the exceptional asset we have in Keno Hill and demonstrate a robust high margin primary silver operation that can produce approximately four million ounces of silver per year,” Alexco chairman and CEO Clynton Nauman stated. “With the results of the [pre-feasibility study] now in hand, we are now on a clear path to production at Keno Hill.” The Silver Trail region where Keno is located was once a major silver producer in Canada. United Keno Hill Mine, the previous owners of Keno Hill, operated in the region for almost 70 years before shutting down in 1989 due to falling mineral prices. The Yukon Government eventually sold the Keno Hill assets to Alexco in 2006. Alexco would begin production at Bellekeno in 2011 before eventually
suspending the mine in 2013, once again due to the low price of silver. The results of the study could mean that Keno Hill will begin production in the near future. “With over 1,000 metres of development completed at Flame & Moth and Bermingham at the end of 2018, we are in a position to initiate mill operations and achieve concentrate production within [five to seven] months after making a production decision for Keno Hill,” Alexco president Brad Thrall said. On April 1, Alexco announced that it had sold over 1.8 million shares to Cantor Fitzgerald Canada Corporation for $3.5 million. The company says that proceeds from the sale will be put towards “Canadian exploration expenses” and “Canadian development expenses” in regards to Keno Hill. Alexco stock opened on the TSX at $1.69 on March 29 before eventually closing at $1.61, a -4.3 per cent reduction for the day. – Matthew Parizot May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 29
Federal audit exposes gaps in water waste storage standards Monitoring mine waste was less frequent for non-metal mines and there’s no requirement to correct issues, according to new report By Matthew Parizot
Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development Julie Gelfand – who provides parliament with independent analysis of the federal government’s efforts to protect the environment – delivered her 2019 Spring Report on April 2, which included a report from the Office of the Auditor General of Canada of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) compliance on enforcing effluent storage standards in fish habitats. When mining companies want to use an existing body of water for tailings and waste storage, it must comply with the Fisheries Act, which prevents companies from using bodies of water to dump substances that might harm fish. However, metal mines are allowed to use bodies of water as waste storage – a result of the Metal and Diamond Mining Effluent Regulations under the act – so long as it maintains a level below a restrictive limit. The report concluded that the ECCC and DFO took the required steps to ensure that metal mining companies followed protocol outlined in the federal Fisheries Act, including assessing the companies’ alternatives for mine waste disposal, doing consultation with Indigenous groups and followed-up on the implementation of the companies’ fish habitat compensation plans – though it did mention that the DFO needed to better ensure that companies were actually carrying out these plans. However, the report also found serious gaps in inspections and follow-ups from the ECCC and DFO once the mine waste plans had already been implemented. Notably, on-site inspections of metal mines from the ECCC were half as frequent in Ontario as they were for the province with the second fewest 30 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
All data from Spring Reports of the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development
inspections in the country. According to the report, the 47 metal mines operating in Ontario between January 2013 and June 2018 received 71 on-site inspections total, for an average interval between inspections of 3.6 years. By comparison, Quebec, which had the most scrutiny, contained 35 metal mines but received 214 inspections, for an average of once every 0.9 years. The report mentioned that if a company went over the legal limit for harmful substances in the water there was no requirement for companies to come up with a solution to the problem, something Gelfand addressed at a press conference in Ottawa. “This is a gap that we found in the system. Right now they do require mining companies to do environmental effect monitoring and they have to do that study twice to confirm that there were environmental effects,” Gelfand said. “Once environmental effects are found and confirmed, that is when nothing actually seems to be needed to be done by anybody.”
Additionally, the report found that ECCC had no comprehensive risk analysis for conducting inspections on non-metal mines – such as potash, coal and oil sands. Under the Fisheries Act, non-metal mines (excepting diamond mines) are not allowed to store any amount of mine waste in water, but were also not required to report whether they had done so. Between 2013 and 2015, the department had a stated goal of inspecting 67 of 117 nonmetal mines in Canada, but only managed to conduct 44 – or two-thirds – of the planned investigations. Officials from the department said in the report that the ECCC had stopped inspections of non-metal mines due to high levels of compliance. However, the report found that the department had “no consolidated information about the about the overall non-mining sector and its subsectors in Canada.” The ECCC’s database does not track inspections from non-metal mines as a separate group, instead including it with other industries such as agriculture and construction.
developments watchdog – programming director Ugo Lapointe, the current system has serious issues. “There are a number of failures in this program, in our opinion. One is the lack of transparency on a mine-permine basis for the data. The other is that the cycle of analysis for the effect monitoring program is a three year cycle,” Lapointe said in a press conference in Ottawa following the release of the report. “They need to show two cycles in a row of effects, so [it’s] six years before they can confirm an effect and potentially act upon this effect. We’re talking between six and nine years before there’s any action required on the part of Environment Canada.” The report, however, concluded that the ECCC had met its requirements to monitor effluent from metal mines, inspecting the data and using it to impose stricter penalties on at-risk areas. The report did find that the ECCC was vigilant in enforcing punish-
ments against companies that violated the law, whether it be through written warning, directions, prosecutions or convictions. “We found that inspections were not done well in terms of non-metal mines. In terms of the metal mines effluent regulations, we found that the department did everything they had to do according to their own work processes,” Gelfand said. “They reviewed all the data, they used that data to make the limits more strict. So our findings in terms of the metal mine effluent regulations was that they were properly being implemented.” The report laid out nine recommendations, which ranged from specifying particular mining sites in reports to ensuring that the ECCC conducts regular site inspections. Both the ECCC and the DOF agreed with all the recommendations and said that they will be making plans to improve. CIM Courtesy of Voltaic Photo
The report also found significant issues with the ECCC’s data as well. The department’s 2016 status report said that between 94 and 99 per cent of mines that provided effluent monitoring data were in compliance with the law. The report instead found that 35 per cent of mines in this group did not provide complete effluent monitoring data and some had not submitted any reports at all. The effluent data is also distinguished by company, rather than by specific mine site, making it harder to determine which regions are at higher risk. Under the current system, mining companies input their data on harmful substances into the ECCC’s system manually. The system would flag instances where the levels of these substances were higher than the legal limit, but officers did not usually review reports where the levels were within the required limit, according to the report. According to MiningWatch Canada – a non-governmental mining industry
Left to right: The winning team from the University of Alberta; Dalhousie University students participate in the mechanical design challenge; a Polytechnique Montreal student resuscitates a dummy
University of Alberta defends title at Canadian Mining Games The University of Alberta took home its second consecutive first place trophy at the Canadian Mining Games this year, defending its title this time as the host school on its campus in Edmonton. The University of British Columbia took second place and Laurentian University picked up the bronze. Eleven schools from across the country participated in this year’s games, which ran from Feb. 21 to 24, and competed in two days of challenges such as equipment handling, mine rescue, mechanical design and crisis manage-
ment. They also went head-to-head in the CIM-hosted “Mystery Event”: a lifeor-death game of laser tag. When the teams were not competing with one another, students had the opportunity to network at social events and career fairs. For University of Alberta team captain Mustafa Adam, the games and the networking are equally important. “I think this is probably the marquee event if you’re a mining engineering student,” he said. “You have industry people sending in their executives, their
VPs and their HR representatives. It’s really where you can see the highest concentration of talent in one specific area, and it’s great to build relationships.” The University of Alberta’s Gold Medal Roster: Abbey Peterson, Issac Kim, Nicholas Melnyk, Mark Jarvos, Samuel Fender, Scott Russell, Grayden Northey, Joshua Magtoto, Tristain Bartz, Oliver Jahnsen, Nick Seniuk, Brett Amero, Mustafa Adam, Bryn Upham, Jakub St Jean, Robert Hollands. – Matthew Parizot May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 31
INSTITUTIONAL INNOVATION How universities are trying to reinvent mining education to meet tomorrow’s needs By Alexandra Lopez-Pacheco
Offroad Robotics students at Queen’s University working on innovative mining/construction vehicle designs
ver the last five years, the department of engineering at the University of British Columbia has been hiring young professors and researchers who specialize in new technologies. “We have Ilija Miskovic, who is heavily into big data and artificial intelligence, Sanja Miskovic, who uses data to help take mineral processing to the next stage, and Ali Madiseh, whose research area is in mine energy systems, which is very cutting edge,” said Malcolm MacLachlan, program manager at the university’s Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining Engineering. “We also have a lot more courses being developed in these new areas. We have a data mining course. We have an automation course adjusted to what happens now and in the future. Heck, we’ve got a component of our 4th year capstone course that features mining on the moon.” Meanwhile, Queen’s University has been developing “real and technically rigorous education for new mining engineers in the fields of mining automation and robotics,” said Joshua Marshall, an associate professor at the university’s Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining and lead at Offroad Robotics, a multidisciplinary engineering research group whose recent research projects working with the mining industry include robotic excavation and remote operator-assist systems. Queen’s also offers a graduate-level course on the fundamentals that automation engineers need to model and design nextgeneration autonomous mining vehicles. But the mining industry will require more than just mining engineers. To succeed in a more digital and automated environment, companies will require mining and mineral processing engineers who can leverage their knowledge of artificial intelligence and machine learning with a holistic mine-to-mill approach to processing. Back in 2006, when Memorial University’s department of process engineering launched its 32 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
first undergraduate program, it did so with a heavy focus on information analysis. The department has been implanting new digitalization technologies across its courses ever since, said Faisal Khan, the department’s head. “The challenge is to provide the students today with the needs of the mining industry in five to ten years,” he said. “So we have researchers in our team focused on data mining and digitalization and the digital twin process specifically for mineral processing.”
Working with industry To meet that challenge, universities are engaging with industry to get its feedback on trends and skills gaps. “We have the advantage that Sudbury is a mining centre,” said Nicole Tardif, program coordinator for Laurentian University’s Goodman School of Mines. “So our professors relate closely with industry.” While that keeps the school in the loop, Laurentian also digs deeper with its own research. Tardif recently surveyed more than 350 engineers, geologists, environmental scientists and managers working in mining on which area they would like to receive more training. Surprisingly, the top area had nothing to do with technology or digitalization. Instead, the professionals said they needed to learn more about the history and cultures of Indigenous people and how to work with them proactively. The school is now developing a course for its Career Path Mapping program for professionals. “At the same time, it’s going to also be available online to students at a discounted price and will fill the gaps for them before they get into the industry,” she said. Mark Adams, Outotec’s regional manager for western Canada, said he believes the industry has an important role to play in all this. He sits on the Norman B. Keevil industry advisory committee, which informs UBC on trends and gaps from
an industry perspective. “Right now, the industry wants to know how to use data to be more productive and efficient, and how we can use connectivity to deal with the shortages of people working in remote areas,” said Adams. “So we’re seeing a lot around how to apply these technologies to do things more remotely.” Research partnerships between mining companies and universities have played a critical role for universities such as Queen’s in closing the gap between industry and education. “Industry itself needs to recognize that it cannot rely on universities alone to foster this change,” said Marshall. “It needs to step up, participate in, and financially support university R&D that educates and attracts these students to the challenges of applying these new technologies in mining.”
Breaking the disciplinary silos “In my view, the biggest challenge is one of disciplinary barriers,” said Marshall. “Mining tends to be a conservative industry and one that repeatedly believes that it can do it all itself.” To break those barriers, Queen’s has opened up its robotics courses to non-mining engineers. “We have seen mechanical, electrical, and computer engineers trained in the unique challenges and interesting opportunities for the application of advanced technologies in mining,” said Marshall. At UBC, walls are also coming down. “Mining is a very cross-disciplinary industry so we do try to break out of the traditional university silos and develop relationships across engineering, with sciences and with the arts,” said MacLachlan, citing the example of one of his department’s professors, Nadja Kunz, an engineer whose research focuses on sustainable water management in mining and works for both the arts faculty doing policy research and the mining engineering department. Digital and autonomous technologies are important, said MacLachlan, but his department keeps an eye on the big picture and trains for the diversity of expertise the industry will need. “There are many other areas that are part of the change toward the future within the industry. Water is one of them,” he said. Another area is the interface between humans and robots, said Greg Jamieson, a professor in the University of Toronto’s department of mechanical and industrial engineering who heads U of T’s Cognitive Engineering Laboratory, which conducts research through the lens of human factors engineering (the discipline that studies the interaction between people and technology). His course, which teaches students to anticipate and design for the impact of new technologies on the humans who interact with them, can be taken by the university’s mining engineering students as an elective. “Human factors engineering offers mining engineers a new perspective in thinking about the engineering work and problem solving,” he said. “And gives them the skillset to try to avoid a situation in which an automation deployment is unsuccessful due to how people interact with the technology.” Students themselves, said Jamieson, have a role to play in the silo-breaking needed for innovation and transformation.
“My advice to any engineering student now is to have the courage to take on something that’s slightly outside your expertise,” he said.
Revving up for more change As the high-tech revolution in the mining industry accelerates, however, universities are revving up their efforts to understand what else they will need to do to prepare the next generation. Ray Gosine, a Memorial University professor of electrical and computer engineering, for example, is currently a visiting professor at U of T, where he is researching the impact of the rapid technological shift in the resource industries – including mining – at the university’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy’s Innovation Policy Lab. “The work involves taking a step back from the day-to-day technology development and trying to put it in a somewhat broader context to understand how it intersects with public policy,” he said. “I’m interested in what we need to do as universities to better prepare our undergraduate and post-graduate students for future careers in these industries, which, like all industries, are subject to changes due to digitalization.” More change is also in the works at UBC’s engineering department, which is currently reviewing all its curricula. The process includes gathering feedback from industry and First Nation communities. “Then next year, we will take what we get out of that and begin a process of reworking our curriculum,” said MacLachlan. At Queen’s, “we are in the midst of developing a new research institute called Ingenuity Labs that will focus on robotics, mechatronics, and AI, and applications in a variety of industries, including mining,” Marshall said. “Stay tuned for some exciting opportunities for students to access a broader range of experts in these fields, including mining students and related industries.” Of course, most of the bright minds that have developed the transformative technologies began as students at a university. “From my perspective, universities have played a huge role in developing and prototyping the fundamental technologies that have formed the basis for the increasing levels of autonomy emerging in the mining industry,” said Marshall. “And through these university-based and collaborative research and development projects, we have trained significant numbers of highly qualified people who have become technology champions in the industry.” CIM
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Throughout 2019 CIM Magazine will feature articles on how the mining workplace is changing and the strategies young professionals will need to build themselves a career in the digital mining industry. Do you have an idea for a story in this section? Reach out to email@example.com. May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 33
A better way to evaluate social risk By Tony Andrews
here has been a dramatic rise in conflict associated with mining operations over the past 16 years. This appears to fly in the face of significant efforts by the mining sector, international institutions and government agencies to improve environmental and social practices. So what is driving this alarming trend? And what is it about conflict that we still do not understand? Over the past four years, the Center for Responsible Mineral Development (RMD), with financial support from the Canadian International Resources and Development Institute (CIRDI) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), has been leading research to provide answers to these questions. The RMD-led team conducted field-based research in Africa and South America, interviewing diverse stakeholders groups, including local communities, local and national-level government representatives, NGOs, senior company decisionmakers and small-scale miners. The field research was supported by a comprehensive literature review and a quantitative analysis of 400 conflict incidents from around the world. Most previous studies on mining-related conflict have focused attention on the interface between companies and
communities where conflict outbreak occurs to try to understand the behaviours of the key players and to develop strategies for transformation and prevention. The limitation with this traditional approach is that it focuses on the symptoms of conflict without truly understanding the underlying causes. At a conceptual level, this new study reveals the following four key insights: 1. Conflict is not an event; it is a process, with a history and a pathway prior to conflict outbreak. 2. Conflict outbreak is often chaotic and difficult to understand, especially when violence is involved, but the underlying process that leads to conflict outbreak is systematic and follows a logical, predicable pathway. 3. The conflict pathway is the result of the interplay among multiple actors; their behaviors, decisions and interactions leading to conflict outbreak can be traced back over time. 4. The role of host governments in establishing the enabling environment for conflict is foundational. The conflict risk for any country or region can be analyzed and understood using a conflict pathway analytical framework, developed by RMD during the study. It is a tool to reveal the conflict process and pathway and to map the connectivity
Figure 1: Rise in conflict incidents associated with mining coincident with the commodity boom. 34 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Figure 2: Conflict pathway analytical framework
and causative relationships between various layers of conflict determinants. The conflict determinants range from long-term, broadscale “structural factors,” acting at the international and national levels, gradually narrowing down (in geographic extent and duration) to “contextual factors,” acting at the national and sub-national levels, through “conflict drivers,” at the level of one or more mining operations, then finally “conflict outbreak triggering events,” which are tipping points that lead to conflict outbreak at a specific locale, usually the community-company interface. The connectivity and causative relationships among the conflict determinants form a watershed of decisions and actions, one giving rise to another as they flow from the broad scale to a specific locale. Central to this flow is path dependency, the tendency for events and decisions early on in the process to lock in courses of action that, over time, become difficult to reverse, shaping the eventual outcomes. Government agencies are active at every level of the conflict hierarchy, but host governments predominate at the level of contextual factors, where the determinants of policy and regulatory oversight reside. Companies and communities contribute primarily at the level of conflict drivers and conflict outbreak triggering events. The RMD-led study revealed the critical role host governments play in either enabling or preventing conflict depending on their approach to governance of mineral development. Most of the governments studied have contributed significantly to sustained conflict risk.
For example, application of the conflict pathway approach reveals a pattern of determinants shared by many countries, starting with colonialism, a structural factor, which gave rise to a preference for centralist approaches to governance, accompanied by lack of social and economic development in rural areas and weak local governance institutions, conflict determinants at the contextual level that persist to the present day. This in turn has precipitated an array of conflict drivers, including land and resource ownership challenges; compensation and livelihood issues; overdependence of local communities on mining companies; improper distribution of benefits; environmental degradation; and lack of transparency and accountability at all levels of government. These factors define one of the key pathways which give rise to accumulated tensions and the generation of conflict risk. Employing the conflict pathway approach will help the mining sector to transcend the current focus on the companycommunity interface, derive a better understanding of the conflict process, resulting in more effective interventions for conflict transformation, prevention and management. Two significant applications of the RMD-led study include increased effectiveness in a) approaches by companies to project and country due diligence and risk assessment and b) approaches by host governments to governance and management of mineral development. CIM
Tony Andrews, PhD, is the principal at the Centre for Responsible Mineral Development Inc. (RMD).
May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 35
Closing the voids on mine remediation By Sue Longo
any mining mergers and acquisitions include some assets that turn out to be a liability. Closed mines, or areas within a mine that have been closed, may require extensive rehabilitation. When it comes to underground voids that may be prone to collapse and tailings areas that pose environmental risks, the temptation may be to solve the problems with quick fixes. However, these quick fixes often simply mitigate rather than eliminate the hazard and a degree of liability remains. For the sustainable and effective remediation of underground workings in closed mines, or the closed portion of active mines, there are five steps that should be followed.
1. Investigate the property and its issues in their entirety The first step is to get a detailed understanding of the mine site, including both surface and underground
36 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
infrastructure. Collect key information such as mine plans, asbuilt information on underground bulkheads and the tailings storage facilities, mill records of grinds and blends, and deposit locations. For mines that had a long life or have been inactive for decades, this type of information can prove difficult to acquire. Searching company records is an obvious place to start. From there the closure team can expand the search to include town hall records, former owners and even unexpected sources like retired mine employees who may have drawings stored at home. Once all the documentation is put together, start filling the gaps with physical investigations. Take advantage of geophysics and ground penetrating radar to identify unknown underground voids that may not have been shown on the available mine plans. Assess any tailings on site and test whether these materials may be suitable for backfill, thereby
columns reducing what needs to be stored on surface and how much new material needs to be brought in. Conduct drilling investigations complemented by downhole surveying to find open stopes, assess their condition, and determine the strength of the crown pillar, all of which will inform your ultimate remediation plan. A thorough investigation helps save on costs and time. For example, our company worked on the site of a closed mine where concrete caps were installed over openings to surface as a first step. However, it was determined upon further investigation that those void spaces under the caps needed to be backfilled, which ultimately rendered the concrete caps redundant. The concrete caps could have been omitted from the plan or designed differently, saving time, rework and additional costs had a more thorough investigation been completed initially.
2. Understand the end purpose of remediation
differ among sites, but ultimately when you eliminate the hazard rather than simply mitigate it, your long-term monitoring needs will greatly decrease or even disappear. In the short term, following the filling of any underground voids, you can expect to do some initial monitoring and verification. This is to confirm that the voids are indeed filled, and that the backfill and crown pillar are behaving as expected. This verification process is often a legislated requirement. Once verified, any long-term monitoring is unlikely to be required as the hazard has now been eliminated. The overall result of following these five steps is a mine property that is less likely to reappear on the agenda of senior management as a liability that needs to be addressed. CIM
Sue Longo, P.Eng, MBA, is a principal in Golder’s Global Mining Business specializing in the remediation of physical mine hazards.
The second major piece in the puzzle is defining the end goal. Will the end land use be simply to return the land to its natural state? Will there be public access? Is residential or other development planned for the site? Getting a clear idea of the intended purpose of the site post-closure will help guide the next stages. A company would have a very different approach to a remote site that is largely inaccessible to the public as opposed to an urban setting with existing or planned buildings on undermined lands. For example, installing large reinforced concrete caps over shafts and adits might not be compatible with a future as a recreational area and would require regular monitoring, but could suit a remote site.
3. Plan your work The investigation stage, combined with the end land use, will guide the closure team in developing the remediation plan. This is where all the hard work and expense of the first two stages pays off. The team can now evaluate options that will best reach the goal, based on sound knowledge of the site. Options that do not meet the goal can be quickly discarded, methods for executing the work in a more cost-effective manner can be identified, and efficiencies can be gained.
4. Work your plan – the construction phase It is important to allow enough time and flexibility in the construction phase to allow for unknowns. A thorough investigation helps reduce the number of unknowns, but unexpected challenges will inevitably be encountered during this phase. As new elements of the site are discovered, whether it be stope connections that were previously unidentified or tailings that are not behaving as expected, add these to your knowledge of the site and adjust your plan accordingly.
5. Monitoring Executing the first four steps well allows you to anticipate your monitoring requirements and develop a plan to suit your objectives, whether seeking a ‘walk-away solution’ or minimal ongoing monitoring. Requirements will May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 37
Courtesy of John Scott
Petri dish streaked with bacteria to which drops of algae extract have been added
Green goop yields a breakthrough Laurentian University bioprospectors discover tailings algae have impressive antibacterial properties By Gillian Woodford
rofessor John Ashley Scott’s house is situated on the shores of a lovely lake in Sudbury, Ontario, a short drive from Laurentian University, where he works in the Bharti School of Engineering. The lake has been in the local news quite a lot recently, and not for its reputation as a popular recreation spot. “At the end of it, there’s an old abandoned gold mine from the 1930s,” explained Scott. “For the last 80-odd years, cyanide and arsenic has been leaking into the lake.” The pH of the water nearest the mine’s rudimentary tailings pit is a dismal 2.5, making it inhospitable to fish and the water unsafe to drink. Out of this grim setting, Scott and his colleague, microbiologist Gerusa Senhorinho, have discovered an unexpected and quite spectacular benefit. Despite the 38 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
combination of low pH and heavy metals, it is an environment that microalgae can flourish in. When the pair tested water samples from the lake and other abandoned mine sites across northern Ontario and Quebec, they found that a high proportion of the microalgae showed potent antibacterial properties that could eventually be used to develop new antibiotics and maybe even combat antibiotic resistance. Their findings are published in the latest issue of CIM Journal (Vol. 10, No. 2, 2019).
Biofuel to antibacterial organisms The bioprospecting project was originally an off-shoot of Professor Scott’s ongoing investigation into the use of microalgae to absorb carbon dioxide from smelter off-gas to produce biodiesel. “We were having to import algae from
closure and reclamation places like Texas when we had all this water in Canada,” recalled Scott, “so we thought we should use some homegrown algae.” He knew that microalgae need to be stressed in order for them to produce the biochemicals that go into biodiesel (both pollution and the cold can be stressors). He also knew the same to be true for the production of antibacterial agents. He thought, why not test for antibacterial properties at the same time. “We were collecting algae from regional lakes in Canada anyway, so we did a double dip with the stressed samples – which are common, particularly in abandoned mines where rehabilitation didn’t even exist 50 to 100 years ago – to see if we could make a virtue out of something people thought of as a problem: mining impacted water bodies.” By coincidence, Senhorinho, a former dentist turned microbiologist, had just arrived at Laurentian University from her native Brazil and was looking for a research project. She heard about Scott’s idea and immediately volunteered to get involved. “Gerusa took this idea I thought up while drinking a coffee and has made some really impressive discoveries,” said Scott. “Indeed, it’s way more impressive than I ever thought it could be.” “It was very exciting for me,” said Senhorinho, who completed a second PhD in microbiology while working on the microalgae project. “I had worked with antibiotics but never with microalgae.” This was back in 2012 and Senhorinho immediately set about exploring the vast backcountry of her new home, mostly on foot and sometimes by helicopter, skimming green sludge off the surface of tailings from abandoned mines all over northern Ontario from May to October. “When we got water samples, there could be 40 to 50 strains of algae in there and Gerusa would then have to isolate them,” said Scott. “We had to develop novel techniques to get it down to a single culture, and then test the individual cultures to find the ones that had the right antibiotic characteristics.” Normally antibiotics are used to isolate microalgae in order to avoid bacterial contamination. Senhorinho took a different approach and eventually found a way, through trial and error, to mechanically isolate and then screen the green microalgae. The entire process took around six years.
Positive impact The payoff was big. The team’s hit rate was spectacular. No less than 37.5 per cent of the microalgae collected showed antibacterial activity. This was much higher than any findings from anywhere else in the world, which is around 10-20 per cent for freshwater sites. The samples were tested against the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus, which is implicated in numerous infections, from minor skin lesions to post-operative wound infections, meningitis, endocarditis and sepsis. Out of 62 samples containing microalgae, 40 microalgal strains were identified, out of which 15 showed anti-
bacterial activity against S. aureus. “Some cultures had no antibiotic activity” said Scott. “But some had staggeringly high antibiotic activity for the same concentration of extract.” Given S. aureus’ notoriety, this finding has huge potential. “It’s a species of bacteria that has been shown to be a huge problem in terms of antibiotic resistance,” explained Senhorinho. “That was really exciting because that is a bacterium that we need to target for new compounds.” The novelty of their approach also stands out. “Algae has had very little research done on it as an antibacterial compared to fungus,” noted Scott. “We need more sources, particularly natural sources. Algae would be something quite unique, particularly in northern Canada where we have all this water and all this algae under a whole range of conditions.” Reaction to the findings has been very positive from both the medical and mining community. “My microbiology colleagues got excited for me because they saw how this all grew,” said Senhorinho. She has presented the findings at several conferences and three years ago the team won a research project award from the Institute of Chemical Engineers. Their work has been supported by the Ontario Centres for Excellence, Glencore’s Sudbury Integrated Nickel Operations and Mitacs, none of which do not have proprietary claims over the findings. The team sees commercial possibilities in a number of areas, from pharmaceutical to neutraceutical (health food) development, and they are looking for financial partners, ideally from the mining industry, to take the project to the next level. “Irrespective of whether anybody gets rich, it’s a great story,” said Scott. “This could be an opportunity for collaboration between mining companies,” he said, adding that “this isn’t just abandoned mine sites – currently used, regulated sites also have the potential to grow these algae so the active mining industry can get involved as well.” He even speculated that there could be an indirect environmental benefit from future bioprospecting projects. “If you raise money out of these sites, some of that money could go back toward helping rehabilitation,” he said. Scott and Senhorinho are continuing their investigations in the same vein, and are currently collaborating with colleagues at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine on possible anti-cancer benefits to be derived from the same microalgae strains that target S. aureus. “Finding antimicrobial and anti-cancer properties in the same organism is fantastic,” said Scott. They have already published work on the possible benefit in breast and ovarian cancer. As for Scott’s lake, he is happy to report that, though the pollution did not really affect his section of the lake (“Luckily it’s a long lake and it’s far from where I am.”), after years of demands from local residents, the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines recently announced that a longplanned cleanup of the tailings will soon begin. CIM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 39
Courtesy of Laeeque Daneshmend
Second year Queen’s University mining engineering students on a field trip to an open-pit mine in northern Ontario.
How should universities introduce more closure training into classrooms? Mining engineering grapples with how to integrate more closure and CSR into the curriculum By Jax Jacobsen
ollowing a series of high-profile tailings dam failures, the waste management and closure practices of the mining industry are under increasing scrutiny. Canadian universities for their part are questioning how they should adapt their curriculum to better prepare the next generation of miners to work in this new reality. Leading mining educators in Canada have mixed feelings about shaking up the curriculum to incorporate more mine closure-focused coursework. “We cannot [spend] the time on courses related to these fields without having an impact on 40 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
other fields,” said Bruno Bussière, a professor at the Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue (UQAT) and the scientific director of RIME UQAT-Polytechnique (Research Institute for Mines and the Environment). “We have very dense programs with a lot of courses,” he said, adding that incorporating new course requirements would mean removing something else from the curriculum. Most programs in Canada, he said, have two to three courses on environmental issues such as mine site reclamation and mine waste management in their programs. “Is this
closure and reclamation
“There is a strong desire amongst academic staff to incorporate more non-technical, yet relevant aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and Indigenous relations into the mining curriculum” – H. Mitri
enough? Should this be redefined? It’s a good question,” he said. Hani Mitri, a professor and director of mining engineering at McGill University underlined that there are limits to what can be added in the space of a bachelor’s degree in engineering. “There is a strong desire amongst academic staff to incorporate more non-technical, yet relevant aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and Indigenous relations into the mining curriculum,” he said, using CSR to include mine closure, waste management and other related topics. “That component is currently covered in relatively small portions in a variety of core courses in the program but is also available in other electives in the humanities and social sciences (HSS).” Some students, however, opt to take other HSS electives, meaning they miss out on taking courses focused solely on sustainability and CSR. “Those are not core components, and this is a question we’re asking: Should CSR be a core component in mining education, and if it is, what should it look like?” he said. Mitri also pointed out that Canadian mining engineering programs must all conform to the standards established by the Canadian Engineering Accreditation Board (CEAB), which somewhat limits their ability to be creative with course offerings and requirements. “The CEAB is restrictive, but it’s also an excellent system because it ensures that all Canadian mining engineering graduates have the same knowledge base,” Mitri said. But other questions, namely how much time should be spent on education, how much spent on training and the role of industry have yet to be answered definitively, he added. For Laeeque Daneshmend, the chair of undergraduate studies for Queen’s University’s mining engineering program, that question has already been answered. “There’s no doubt in my mind that we have started to move away from the idea that we are producing students to be employed by an industry, and towards looking at what the four-decade career span is going to be, and how is that going to be best served by giving them fundamental insights to apply over long and varied careers,” Daneshmend said. As for the restrictions placed by the CEAB, these can be managed, he said. “It really does depend on institutions tak-
ing initiative,” he said, adding that mining programs have a little more flexibility than some other programs. “It depends on having people and professors who will champion this sort of change.”
Where will pressure to change come from? Daneshmend said he believes that curriculum changes will come from the students. “Students tend to recognize things before faculty do,” he said. “[In 2006] I had just become department head, and I have to admit, I was one of these recalcitrant sticks in the mud” about courses covering closure, sustainability, and CSR. Nonetheless Queen’s offered its first social sustainability course that academic year. “It got the highest satisfaction ratings of students on any course,” he said. Bussière is confident that the industry itself will be the force to inspire changes in undergraduate and graduate mining engineering programs. “I think it has to be clear from the mining industry that they need more specialized people in these fields, and I think the message would be heard by the students and academia” he said. The UQAT professor said he is already seeing this in practice in the last few years. “They are really asking – in advisory program committees, for example – for people who are well trained in these fields, and are ready to invest in research projects and in the hiring of graduate students that will become their future experts,” he said. The International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) has already taken steps to work with universities and better prepare graduates for meeting the industry’s needs. “Our mine closure working group has initiated a project to work with universities to understand whether mining-related degree program curricula have enough coverage of closure and broader sustainability content,” Dawn Brock, ICMM senior program officer, said. A recent poll undertaken by the organization found that few mining programs had mandatory closure components. “The mining industry needs to have comfort that the pipeline of future technical mining professionals appreciate the key challenges associated with closure,” she said. Dirk Van Zyl, chair of mining at the Norman B. Keevil Institute of Mining at the University of British Columbia, concurs that there is tremendous industry demand for training in tailings and mine closure, but problems in academia have slowed down any movement to offer more instruction on these topics. “It’s the typical issues in academia, and the resources,” he said. “Can you find the additional faculty to teach that?” However, in his mind, it is absolutely vital that universities, and not companies, train mining engineers on these critical issues. “I think we are relying too much on the mentoring that happens in consulting companies as well as industry to get people the education they need” on these issues, he said. CIM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 41
Solving a basic tailings challenge The power of acid-generating microbes to neutralize alumina refining tailings By Christopher Pollon
sing microbes to neutralize and remediate tailings is still in its infancy, but if Australia-based microbiology expert Talitha Santini has her way, a new bioremediation technique being field tested now will enable the remediation of high-alkalinity tailings from bauxite and gold processing to yield a soil suitable for plant growth, and may also support reuse in agriculture, road and concrete infrastructure construction. Santini, a senior lecturer and environmental science chair at the University of Western Australia’s School of Agriculture and Environment, says the wide-scale adoption of this approach has the power to change the way we think of mining waste, reducing the risks associated with permanent tailings storage.
CIM: How did you get involved in researching tailings remediation? Santini: I grew up in Perth, and did a Bachelor of Arts and Science at the University of Western Australia. I ended up majoring in environmental management and soil science, doing a full-year research project with Alcoa, looking at chemistry and mineralogy of tailings, and how to develop treatments for them. During my post-doctorate I moved to Canada, where I worked in a lab at McMaster University with a combined focus on geochemistry and microbiology. That’s where I picked up a lot of my microbiological expertise, and I continued to develop that once I moved into a faculty position. 42 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
CIM: Bauxite is a big focus of your work – how did you develop this focus? Santini: I live and work in Australia, which has one of the largest bauxite reserves in the world. Currently it’s among the largest producers of bauxite and alumina, so it’s a really major industry there. Canada still has a few [refineries and smelters] so this is directly relevant to Canada, too.
CIM: You’ve been working on ways to neutralize high-alkalinity tailings with microbes. How does it work? Santini: It’s a bit like beer brewing, except instead of making alcohol, we’re trying to get microbes to make acid. To do that, we supply an organic carbon source, something like sugar, and the microbes break down that organic carbon source into acid and CO2, which neutralize the pH. We’ve also used plant waste, and even waste bananas in some studies. To date we have gotten the most efficient response with simple sugars, things like glucose and fructose.
CIM: Tailings from bauxite processing and alumina refining have a high pH. Why is it so important to find ways to neutralize the alkalinity of these tailings? Santini: High pH is probably one of the most challenging things to tackle, just because it tends to attack living cells and
closure and reclamation really damage and break them apart. This causes major problems if you try to revegetate the tailings directly during closure. Neutralizing the pH with this microbial technology is one key part of enabling direct revegetation into tailings, rather than importing capping materials. Our microbial approach is around a third (or less) the cost of using mineral acids, and we continue to improve the efficiency and decrease costs of this process. Neutralizing pH also enables reuse of high alkalinity tailings. The alkalinity is a real barrier for reuse in things like construction fill materials but if you use geochemical and microbiological approaches to pH neutralization, then presto, you have a material that can suddenly be used for a whole range of applications.
CIM: Is your research applicable to other tailings beyond bauxite? Santini: Yes. There is a wide variety of alkaline tailings that this technology could be applied to, and we’re just starting to explore that now, which is really exciting. We’ve proven this approach first with one type of bauxite residue, and have since tested it across a range of different bauxite residues. The next step is to test it out on different alkaline tailings types, including tailings from gold, lithium, chromite and uranium processing. The microbial species driving the remediation are likely to be different, however.
CIM: Do you ever have to add new microbes into the tailings? Santini: Yes. Sometimes we just rely on the microbiological communities present in the tailings, but those generally give us the worst results, because they’re pretty damaged, due to the harsh chemical conditions in the tailings. We see better results when we introduce a microbial community from somewhere else into that tailings environment. We’ve actually gotten really good results with regular garden soil – it’s hugely diverse in terms of the number of microbial species that it hosts.
CIM: Have you done any field tests? Santini: We have started implementing this in a field trial in Western Australia, which is really exciting. So far we’ve neutralized about 30 tonnes of bauxite residue. For the trial, we went to a local brewery and took some of their spent brewing yeast, which provided the nitrogen source needed by the microbes as they ferment the glucose to produce organic acids and CO2. It worked really well. So as part of the scale-up, we’re also looking at ways to make the most of other waste streams as well, reduce costs, and try to solve multiple problems at once.
CIM: With this precedent achieved, where do you go from here? Santini: I think we’re going to see this approach rolled out across a few different refineries around the world. For each refinery you’re going to have to change things slightly, depending on the properties of the residue and how you want
to treat it. We’re currently treating residue that is already in tailings storage facilities, but another approach will be to treat the residue before it’s even discharged. So the residue is coming out of the refinery, it’s getting spun around in this reactor with the microbes and glucose and nutrients, treated, and discharged into the tailings storage facilities.
CIM: To confirm, a huge up-side to this remediation approach is that you can divert and reuse the tailings, instead of storing them as permanent waste? Santini: Yes. There’s still a general perception that tailings are waste, but we’re starting to see people reframe that, which is really encouraging. Once we accept that these are dynamic materials that can be modified in situ to support plant life, it opens up a range of new opportunities for how we approach closure of tailings storage areas. The methods we’ve developed for remediating tailings in situ may even allow us to harvest the remediated tailings for reuse. They could also be applied to tailings as they are being generated, with the treated tailings diverted immediately to reuse. What’s most promising will be reusing tailings in high volume applications like construction materials – things like road base, bricks, cement and concrete – and in agricultural applications as soil amendments.
CIM: In-situ bioremediation is still in its infancy in the world of mining – what will it take for it to be widely adopted? Santini: We’re only just starting to see microbial technologies being implemented, so certainly what we’re doing with bauxite residue is world leading, and it would be great to see similar approaches rolled out to target different types of tailings. In most cases we’re still in the containment stage: dig a hole, build some walls, put the tailings in there, put a cap on top, and walk away, maybe with some post-closure monitoring. But there is a growing amount of research and development in this space. I think it will be the next big step change in how we treat tailings in the field.
CIM: What forces will push bioremediation forward in the future? Santini: I think growing environmental awareness and public perceptions about waste management are driving companies to think about how to redesign our extraction processes to produce less tailings, to produce tailings that are more environmentally compatible and amenable to in-situ remediation, and to produce tailings that can be diverted through a range of end uses. Bioremediation helps with both in-situ remediation and reuse, and can reduce management and closure costs. Some governments are also starting to tighten regulations for tailings dam management in the wake of a string of high-profile dam failures, and they want to know what is being done beyond just containment to reduce risk. So there’s a role for government regulation to drive some of this forward for sure. CIM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 43
CHAIN REACTIONS By Kylie Williams
Largo Resources produces vanadium pentoxide flake at its Maracรกs Menchen mine in Brazil
Courtesy of Largo Resources
Battery metals are set to explode, but is the industry ready to keep up with demand?
atteries are a simple and versatile method for storing electrical energy in everything from tiny, implantable medical devices and personal electronics to vehicles, homes, buildings, mines and entire city grids. They are best known for their portable applications, such as in electronics and vehicles, but also have permanent, stationary uses as grid storage for electricity generated from renewable sources, such as solar and wind. For mining companies, the burgeoning low carbon economy and the pivotal role batteries will play is both a challenge and an opportunity. Battery metal demand is sure to rise, but which metals will be required? The strongest driver now is electric vehicles (EVs) and the materials needed for the various cathode types in their lithium-ion batteries, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt, manganese and aluminum. But manufacturing EVs is only part of the equation. Charging EVs in a power system that relies heavily on wind and solar requires reliable energy storage for grid stabilization. “Renewable capacity, predominately wind and solar power, will more than double over the next 10 years,” said Daniel Brenden, senior power and renewables analyst at Fitch Solutions. “The issue with wind and solar power is that they are inherently volatile, based on the weather, and we need a lot of storage to make it more reliable. Electric vehicles are the main growth driver of storage capacity coming online.”
utomakers around the world are committing billions of dollars over the coming decade to developing new EV models and phasing out internal combustion engines (ICE). According to J.P. Morgan, global auto sales for
plug-in electric vehicles were just under one million vehicles, or one per cent of sales in 2016. By 2025, it predicts this will rise to close to 8.4 million vehicles or a 7.7 per cent market share. “With an EV, the key is to store as much power as possible in the smallest space possible, so you need the energy density,” said Brenden. “That’s where EV [battery] applications differ from grid applications because they don’t have the same limits on space.” In a series of articles published in late 2018, Fitch Solutions forecast that globally nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) cathodes will dominate among new EV sales moving forward, but lower cost lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) cathodes will continue to have a significant presence in Chinese markets. The LFP cell contains no cobalt and has a low energy density and therefore a low range, but the advantages are low cost, thermal stability and the capacity to be discharged and recharged extensively. NMCs are the type of lithium-ion battery used by most of the European EV manufacturers, valued for their thermal stability, high energy density and low cost. “Being able to store a lot of power in a car and drive quite far between charges is key to making EVs more attractive to a lot of people,” said Brenden. “That is going to ramp up the usage of nickel in batteries.” Nickel Nickel is abundant, said George Heppel, senior analyst for cobalt, lithium and battery markets at CRU Group. Numerous class two nickel deposits, which are good for producing stainless steel, are in the pipeline, particularly in Southeast Asia, but it is the shortage of high-purity class one nickel needed for batteries and specialty alloys that is a concern. “Although there is plenty of nickel in the market,” said Heppel, “the issue is really where are we going to get high-quality material suitable for use in batteries.”
Lithium-ion Batteries: Cathodes Factbox – Pros & Cons NMC (nickel-managanese-cobalt)
Highest energy density
Long cycle life
High energy density
Lower cobalt content
Ethical and reputational risk
Low thermal stability
Low energy density
Elevated self-discharge Source: EIA, National Sources, Fitch Solutions
46 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
demand for lithium for batteries will grow rapidly over the next decade and that by 2023, more than 69 per cent of demand for lithium will be for batteries. Although aluminum is also abundant, manufacturers are needed to turn aluminum into the high-purity alumina (HPA) Source: London Metal Exchange
The more difficult solution is to find and develop new deposits rich in class one nickel, but another is a technically complex process called high-pressure acid leach (HPAL) mining. HPAL produces nickel sulphate – the raw material required for battery production – directly at the mine site using a high-pressure, high-temperature separation process applied to relatively abundant lateritic ore. Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) reports to have pioneered HPAL technology at their nickel operations in the Philippines. Cobalt More than half of the world’s cobalt is mined in the politically unstable Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where artisanal cobalt miners extract about one fifth of the cobalt ore by hand. Elon Musk, co-founder and CEO at Tesla, tweeted on June 18, 2018: “We use less than 3% cobalt in our batteries & will use none in next gen.” Although this is an admirable goal, Heppel said that this will be difficult to achieve within the next ten years because cobalt is such an important element for battery chemistry. It acts as a stabilizing agent and stops the battery from overheating. “It is extremely important for maintaining the safety of the battery,” said Heppel. “People will keep chipping away at the cobalt content in their batteries, but in terms of removing it entirely, we’re not yet at the stage where anything can replace cobalt battery chemistries in terms of stability, cost and ease of production.” Until a suitable alternative source of cobalt is identified, the world will continue to buy much of its cobalt from the DRC, where there is a high risk of resource nationalization and a tendency to change mining legislation suddenly, including sudden bans on cobalt exports, such as in March 2019. The third lithium-ion battery type used in EVs is the nickel-cobalt-aluminum (NCA) battery. NCAs sit somewhere in between an NMC and LFP with a lower cobalt content but higher energy density. Tesla claimed in mid-2018 that the cobalt content of the NCA battery cells used in the Model 3 EV contain less cobalt than an NMC battery with a nickelmanganese-cobalt ratio of less than 8:1:1. Four of these NCA batteries will reportedly be used to power each semi-trailer truck Tesla aims to begin producing in 2020. Lithium, aluminum and manganese The remaining three materials vital to EV batteries – lithium, aluminum and manganese – are abundant, relatively inexpensive and easy to extract. Of these, the manganese supply chain is of least concern. Manganese is plentiful, available in the right form and has a strong market supporting its production for other purposes. “Lithium is probably the most affected of the battery metals by the increased demand for EVs and batteries, mainly because a substantial amount of lithium demand is for batteries,” said Heppel. According to recent analysis by the CRU Group, 2018 was the first year when batteries represented more than 50 per cent of lithium demand. CRU predicts
May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 47
used as a separator in battery cells, a thin coating between the anode and the cathode. “HPA is something where there may be a risk of shortage,” said Heppel. “There is no shortage of aluminum, but making it into that HPA form is where there are concerns. There is a lot of investment ongoing, a lot of it in Australia, but if we have any bottlenecks or lack of investment, that could be a potential concern as well.”
dium, which has predominately been used to strengthen steel, is becoming the metal of choice for grid storage. “There are certain things happening in the vanadium industry that are changing the demand pretty quick right now,” said Mark Smith, CEO of Toronto-based vanadium mining company Largo Resources, which produces about 10,000 tonnes of vanadium products per year at the Maracás Menchen mine in Brazil. “One is the rebar standard that was issued in China.” In November 2018, the Standardization Administration of Battery-operated heavy vehicles China introduced new regulations requiring rebar – reinforced n addition to the millions of electric passenger cars steel bar – to meet a specified yield strength requirement; expected to be on the road within the next decade will be adding about one kilogram of vanadium to a tonne of steel is fleets of heavy battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in a range one way to do that. According to Vanitec, a U.K.-based interof industries, including mining. Given the expense of heavy national trade association of vanadium producers, the new equipment to replace, many operators regulations are designed “to reduce the are choosing to retrofit existing dieseluse of substandard steel and make powered heavy equipment with elecbuildings in China more earthquake tric batteries. resistant.” Robert Rennie is president of The metal is also a major compoOntario-based Mobile Equipment nent of the vanadium redox flow batDesign and Automation Technology tery (VRFB). “The timing is perfect (MEDATECH) that primarily converts because of all the renewable energy ICE vehicles to battery electric using that’s coming online right now,” said custom engineering. About 80 per Smith. “It’s not going to be worth cent of MEDATECH’s clients are in the much to the consumers or the utility – D. Anonychuk mining industry and the team recently companies if they don’t couple it with worked with MacLean Engineering to a battery.” deliver the first 100 per cent battery electric retrofit motor The first patent for a VRFB was granted to researchers at grader to Goldcorp’s Borden Lake Mine, which is set to the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, over become Canada’s first all-electric underground mine. 30 years ago, but the battery was commercialized only in the “We’re not married to any one chemistry,” said Rennie. last few years. The advantage of using vanadium to store “The key component that everyone is most interested in is our energy is the four different oxidation states of the vanadium battery supplier, and that is AKASOL out of Germany.” salts. The anode and cathode are both species of vanadium. AKASOL makes lithium-ion batteries of various Inside a VRFB, two electrolytes are mixed in a cell stack but chemistries, including several versions of the NMC. MEDAT- kept separate by a thin ionic exchange permeable membrane. ECH primarily uses AKASOL’s nano battery, which is a hybrid A redox, or oxidation-reduction, reaction takes place in the between an NMC cell and a lithium-titanium-oxide (LTO) cell, generating a flow of electrons to produce electrical energy. cell. The result is a very energy-dense battery suitable for the By storing the two liquid electrolyte solutions containing difdemands put on heavy equipment. ferent salts of vanadium in separate tanks, the solutions do Rennie recommends the AKASOL nano battery for vehicles not degrade. that require high energy and high amounts of energy capacity, “The vanadium doesn’t get consumed like a lithium-ion such as a haul truck. The challenge, like with commercial pas- battery,” said Smith. “It is a preferable way to store renewable senger vehicles, is to coordinate the charging regime with the or grid-level energy and then discharge it when the public battery type and the purpose of the vehicle. needs it.” “The battery is really important,” said Rennie. “But what is Long-lasting VRFBs are well-suited to stationary applicajust as important is how you are going to charge it. Battery tions because capacity can easily be increased by adding more technologies are probably not going to be significantly differ- cells. But, there is intense competition for vanadium for other ent in ten years, but I believe people will be investing in charg- purposes. According to Vanitec, 80,523 tonnes of vanadium ing infrastructure in a major way.” were produced worldwide in 2017. Presently, just over 90 per cent of vanadium is directed to the steel industry. Vanitec estimates that potential demand for vanadium for batteries could A foundation for stationary applications grow to about 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of vanadium per year lthough some stationary applications may use stacks by 2025. of lithium-ion batteries, mainly because that has been High-purity vanadium is also in demand for a new vanathe only battery type available until recently, vana- dium lithium-ion battery being developed by watchmaker
“The demand isn't the big story; it's the supply shortages we're going to see.”
48 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Courtesy of Largo Resources
The Campbell pit at Largo Resources’ Maracás Menchen mine in Brazil
Swatch and Belenos Clean Power Holding Ltd. for various uses, including for use in EVs by Chinese car manufacturer Geely. “We’ve had a meeting with Swatch because they need highpurity vanadium, and Largo is a high-purity vanadium producer,” said Smith. “They’ve got two places they can go and we’re one of them.” The outlook for vanadium explorers and producers is good. Largo is conducting brownfield exploration and working on an expansion project to increase production at the Maracás Menchen mine to 12,000 tonnes of vanadium pentoxide (V205) per year. Other battery chemistries are making strides in the stationary energy storage game. Two Australian companies are developing another flow battery technology using zinc-bromine chemistry. Brisbane-based Redflow Energy Storage Solutions recently installed zinc-bromine flow batteries to store solar energy to provide a reliable power supply for a remote village in mountainous northern Thailand. The project, backed by the Thai government, is using solar cells to harvest energy and a high-performance hybrid battery system, including Redflow’s ZBM2 battery model, to store energy for a village microgrid separate from the national electricity distribution network. Gelion Technology from North Sydney, Australia, is developing a zinc and bromine battery with a gel, rather than liquid, electrolyte inside. These batteries are non-flammable, fire-retardant and flexible enough to be incorporated into various applications
Demand is clear, but what about supply?
attery chemistries and technologies are advancing at a rapid pace as researchers and manufacturers strive to develop reliable, low-cost batteries with evergreater energy storage density and charging and recharging capability. There is no question that the raw materials needed to make these batteries will remain in high demand. But demand is not the end of the story, warns David Anonychuk, managing director at mining consultancy M.Plan International Limited. “The demand isn’t the big story; it’s the supply shortages we’re going to see,” said Anonychuk. “We’re not seeing the investment or companies able to raise the right amount of capital [to progress battery metal projects now].” Anonychuk said he suspects that the current reluctance to invest in battery metal projects by major companies and financial institutions is going to create a supply gap in a few years. “We can all talk about how wonderful the demand is, but who faces the biggest risk? Automotive and chemical companies that need lithium-ion batteries to meet their projections,” said Anonychuk, who predicts that the turning point on the investment side of the battery industry will occur when automotive and chemical companies start making serious supply agreements or acquisitions of mining assets. Currently, there are no major mining companies that have diversified into niche battery metal projects. “When automotive companies start to invest, other investors will follow – that’s the signal,” said Anonychuk. CIM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 49
MONUMENT to the FUTURE The K3 headframe at The Mosaic Companyâ€™s Esterhazy operations rises high above the Saskatchewan prairie and marks a turning point for the mining complex, as it begins to free itself from the decades-long struggle against water inflow By Kylie Williams The K3 shaft hoisted its first skip full of potash late last year and will continue to deliver ore to the surface for at least the next half-century.
owering 114 metres above the plains in southern Saskatchewan stands the North headframe at The Mosaic Companyâ€™s new Esterhazy K3 potash mine. The massive structure, likely the tallest headframe in Canada, is 18 metres by 18 metres at the base and contains two enormous hoists. The Koepe production hoist, commissioned in December 2018, will haul 60-ton skips of potash ore, mined over a kilometre below, to the surface, while the smaller Blair hoist is fitted with a 27-ton cage for transporting people and equipment. Housing the Blair drum hoist within the confines of the headframe was one of the many engineering feats designed into the project. The Koepe hoist in the North headframe, capable of hoisting 11 million short tons per year, will soon be joined by a second Koepe hoist 137 metres away in the South headframe, 50 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
which is currently scheduled for construction to start in the spring of 2020. At full capacity, the two hoists will be capable of hauling more than 20 million short tons of potash to the surface each year, helping Mosaic achieve its goal of building and operating the largest, most competitive underground potash mine in the world by 2024.
The journey so far Mosaic initiated the Esterhazy K3 expansion project in 2011 to escape the brine inflow issues the company has been battling at the existing K1 and K2 operations since 1985. For over 30 years, Mosaic dedicated millions of dollars annually to pumping brine out of the K1 and K2 mines to maintain operations. In 2012 alone, the company spent US$250 million to manage brine inflows at Esterhazy.
Courtesy of The Mosaic Company / Greg Huszar
Freezing technology was employed to control water inflow while sinking the six-metre diameter shafts. Holes were drilled around the perimeter of the shafts and minus 35-degreeCelsius heat transfer fluid was pumped down sleeves inserted into the drill holes to freeze the ground. Within this protective frozen core, drilling, blasting and mucking was used to excavate the shaft layer-by-layer. Excavators were suspended below a Galloway platform to load and remove the blasted material and the shaft was lined to prevent water inflow.
Reaching bottom In February 2017, Mosaic reached the coveted potash layer 1021 metres below the surface and retrieved the first bucket of potash to the surface. Although the goal was to continue the shaft to 1088 metres, this was a historic moment for the company and for the province, as K3 became the first potash production shaft to be sunk in Saskatchewan in nearly 50 years. The next milestone was reached in May of the same year when Mosaic completed the connecting drift between the North and South shafts, allowing flow-through ventilation to accommodate the diesel equipment required for underground development.
The modular approach
Lawrence Berthelet, vice president of engineering and capital for the potash business unit at Mosaic, said the location of K3 was carefully chosen to access the same rich Esterhazy potash layer mined at K1 and K2 but also to put an adequate buffer between the old and new mines to eliminate the water risk. Berthelet, who joined Mosaic to lead the K3 mine construction project, has a unique family connection to the mine: his father worked for the construction company that started building K1 in 1957. Mosaic partnered with Hatch, the engineering, procurement and construction management contractor and numerous major contractors to build K3. The groundworks for the $3.2-billion project began in 2012 with the construction of the North and South headframes to house the shaft-sinking equipment.
Two of the major challenges faced by the K3 expansion project were the shortage of skilled labour and the weather. To overcome these challenges, Hatch employed a modular approach for the construction phase. A Saskatoon fabrication company, Waiward, was selected to fabricate and pre-assemble steel sections, which were then transported by truck to the site. “Our goal was to reduce risk during construction, from a safety, cost and schedule point of view. The modular design and construction allowed us to achieve all three, as thousands of high risk labour hours were eliminated from site,” said Hatch’s Mark Deziel, director of mining for North America. “Since we have implemented the modular program, 250 tonnes of preassembled steel has been installed during the North headframe changeover and 300 tonnes at shaftbottom.” The largest piece to travel the 400 kilometres between Saskatoon and Esterhazy was the dump floor centre module for the headframe, which, at 18 metres long and six metres wide, weighed in at 56-tonnes. Deziel estimated that the modular approach for this shaved 45 days, or about 25 per cent, off the schedule by reducing the amount of construction time on site. “The South Headframe, which is currently in the detailed design phase, will have 100 per cent of the steel installed using pre-assemblies, and is estimated to reduce onsite labour by 24,000 hours, reduce construction schedule by six months and save Mosaic $20 million in capital cost.” said Deziel, adding “Planning for construction early in the design phase is crucial.” May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 51
Courtesy of Hatch
PROJECT SPECS: K1 decommissioning – 2021 K2 decommissioning – 2023 Esterhazy potash bed height – 2.4 metres Potash Reserves 879 MT 24.7% K20 equivalent Mine life: 50+ years
Courtesy of The Mosaic Company
Numerous massive pieces of mining equipment were also lowered to mine level in large sections using the sinking winches. In late 2017 and early 2018, the team lowered a drum miner underground in just four pieces. “I think that was the biggest lift in a potash shaft in Canadian history,” said Berthelet, “We did four of them successfully without incident. Normally it could take two to three months to put a drum miner together, and you have to take it down in so many pieces. We put this thing down in four pieces. The biggest piece was 60 tons, and we put it together in about 10 days.”
Courtesy of Hatch
The project passed another milestone in December 2018 when it sent the first skip of potash along the new 11-kilometre overland conveyor connecting K3 to the Esterhazy K2 mill. Rather than investing billions of dollars to construct new processing and tailings management facilities at K3, Mosaic has been making capital investments over recent years to gradually upgrade circuits and equipment at the existing K1 and K2 processing plants and to use two new 11-kilometre conveyor belts to transport ore from K3 to the K1 and K2 facilities. “The K3 mine will be the biggest potash mine in the world at 21 million short tons,” said Berthelet, “We anticipate we will be able to process all of that ore once capacity is reached at K3.” With the K3 to K2 conveyor now in operation, the next big step will be commissioning the K3 to K1 conveyor which, Berthelet anticipates, will be in mid-to-late 2020. The South hoist should be operating by 2022.
Ramping up productivity
Top to bottom: The drum miner was lowered down the K3 shaft in four parts; The assembled machine mines the 2.4-metre potash bed a kilometer below the surface; the headframe houses a Koepe hoist and a Blair drum hoist. 52 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
To maximize efficiency and productivity at the new mine, Mosaic is applying the lessons learned from over 50 years of mining at K1 and K2 to K3, as well as new, more efficient and automated equipment underground, and installing a Wi-Fi communications backbone underground to increase communication and data transfer efficiency. As Mosaic builds to full capacity at K3, both the K1 and K2 mines will be decommissioned. “We are still looking good for our full capacity at K3 by 2024,” said Berthelet. “But we’re a little bit too early in the game to give a good schedule on the decommissioning.” The current challenge at K3 is to populate the underground with enough boring machines to cut the potash to feed the hungry new hoist. CIM
Courtesy of Inmarsat
The technology to monitor dams remotely and in real-time is available, the question is whether miners are open to using it.
The M internet of tailings Better connections, affordable sensors and smarter platforms are the foundation for modern tailings storage facility monitoring By Cecilia Keating
ine operators and regulators can now monitor readings from sensor equipment installed at tailings storage facilities more quickly, less expensively and without having to physically traipse around the tailings dam to manually collect the data. In some cases, engineers can check in on dams’ sensor readings in near real time from thousands of kilometres away. This is largely thanks to the technological sorcery of the internet of things (IoT). When mentioned in relation to mine tailings monitoring, IoT technology means that old-school geotechnical sensors – like thermistors, inclinometers and piezometers – are made “smart,” or imbued with the ability to communicate. In other words, battery-charged data acquisition systems are matched to the sensors threaded across a tailings dam, collecting sensor data and transmitting it to a central hub through a communications network. That central gateway will, in turn, push data to a digital dashboard where mine engineers and regulators can review it. “A fully automated monitoring system 30 years ago would have been very expensive compared to today,” explained Vincent Le Borgne, R&D manager at GKM Consultants, a Montreal-based geotechnical monitoring firm that guides mine operators through May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 53
all stages of mine tailings monitoring, from installing sensors to commissioning data dashboards. “Historically, if there were any instruments at all on site, you would have a field technician or engineer who would manually read each instrument and then write it in a logbook and store it away somewhere.” This no longer has to be the case today, he said. “Tailings management is much more tightly controlled, and the tools are there; you have a small box called the data acquisition system that the sensor instrument is connected to. That automatically reads the instruments, stores the data locally and then transfers it to a central location or server, where it is available to the end user. It’s a much more cost-effective way of doing monitoring that is only getting easier and easier with modern technology.” Automated monitoring systems are now much less expensive thanks to the advent of long-range, low-power wireless networks, Le Borgne explained. Data acquisition systems can transmit readings across a large mine for years using the same battery pack. “Power requirements [for networks] have lowered tremendously over the last 20 years, which makes them easier to install on tailings networks that don’t have electric power,” explained Le Borgne. “We can now transmit over a 15-kilometre range.” In the past, this would have only been possible by running a power cable. “Cables are very vulnerable, they can break very easily, especially in cold weather, and they are very expensive to install,” he added. GKM Consultants will help clients choose the right data acquisition system and tailor it to their needs. A product range that has taken off relatively recently, according to GKM Consultants field engineer Alexandre Cosentino, are Loadsensing dataloggers produced by IoT World Sensing, whose batteries last 10 years before needing to be replaced. This is a boon for sun-deprived Arctic mines in Canada that cannot use solarpower batteries. While the instruments used to monitor tailings facilities have largely remained the same over the past several decades – tools dedicated to measuring water pressure, soil temperature, underground soil movement, weather conditions and water flow – there have been some additions. Over the last decade, facility geometry surveying tools have matured, according to Chad LePoudre, vice-president of geoscience and materials testing at SNC-Lavalin. “Aerial drone survey technology allows for large areas to be evaluated by a single operator for a relatively low cost. For high risk sites, there are also relatively new radar monitoring systems that can provide alarms should dams or pit walls experience sudden movement.” He said that “regular surveys” that allow engineers to understand how a facility’s shape is changing over time are “often underrated” as a tailings monitoring technique.
information is pushed to the cloud, or the internet. It means that tailings monitoring can then be done remotely; an engineer or regulator in Montreal can log on to a website and check in on a mine tailings dam in the Arctic, in near real time. GKM Consultants’ Le Borgne said that San Diego-based software company Sensemetrics is one of “the few companies attempting to bring the industry into the modern age” by offering cloud-based data management systems. “There is still a lot to be done to change mentalities,” he said, noting that many of GKM’s clients continue to “demand on-site-only data hosting and are completely hostile to the idea of cloud-based data management.” GKM Consultants was one of the first to offer cloud monitoring in Canada as part of their services. In Sensemetrics’ solution, a wide array of different sensor types can communicate their readings to a distributed gateway network, which in turn utilizes cellular, wireless or satellite technology, as appropriate, to transmit findings to a data management system in the cloud. That online dashboard can then be accessed by mine operators and regulators anywhere in the world. This solution offers functions such as cross-organizational data sharing, advanced analytics and automated reporting. Because Sensemetrics has already invested significant resources into designing “plug and play” technology, the system “does not require extensive implementation, large amounts of customization or specialized personnel dedicated to maintaining a complex system. It’s a rapidly deployable and scalable solution to pressing mine problems, allowing engineers to focus on mine safety and productivity,” said Sensemetrics CEO Matt Meehan. Its system is currently installed at tailings facilities in South America and the U.S. At a recent deployment on an 11-kmlong hybrid rock tailings dam facility in Central America with limited communication and power infrastructure, Sensemetrics said it took one of its employees two days to train mine operators and three days to set up the sensor network. This swift timeline is not unusual, said director of mining Alex Pienaar. “Anything from three to five days, typically even less, is an accurate installation time. It sounds unrealistic; people struggle to grasp that,” he said. Sensemetrics’ connectivity platform uses a variety of network protocols, including wireless mesh, LoRa or LoRaWan. This flexibility is useful, according to Meehan, because there are sometimes different network standards in different parts of a mine, “due to factors such as site topography, data type and density from selected sensors.” Sensemetrics’ solution is also malleable to its own in-house data acquisition devices (whose batteries do not need to be replaced for the full life of the hardware) as well as to those manufactured by other parties, including Worldsensing and Geokon.
Monitoring in the cloud An increasing number of miners are combining increasingly sophisticated tailings data acquisition with cloud-based data management systems. In this scenario, the on-site sensor 54 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Satellite oversight A new player hoping to shake up the mine tailings data acquisition and management space is the established British
satellite communications firm Inmarsat, which launched a new smart mine tailings monitoring solution in collaboration with the British arm of engineering consultancy Knight Piésold in February. Its solution works similarly to Sensemetrics’, gathering information from on-site sensors using low-power wide-area wireless networks, like LoRaWan, before transmitting it to the cloud. However, according to Inmarsat, its solution provides standalone power and communications as part of the system, meaning it does not rely on traditional power or communications, which is vital for remote or closed sites. “Each sensor has its own LoRaWAN transponder and it’s out there pinging away at data. Then we have a base station, which aggregates that data at the edge and transmits it via our satellite network,” explained Joe Carr, Inmarsat’s director of mining development. Inmarsat was founded by the United Nations 40 years ago to locate ships in distress and continues to operate 13 satellites in order to broadcast maritime distress signals. It will use these same satellites to transmit mine tailings monitoring data securely to the cloud. “It’s a 99.9 per cent reliable network,” said Carr. “That’s incredibly unique. You won’t get anyone else who can provide the same data service in Peru as they can in Oman and in Mali.” As a result, regulators and companies “can manage their dams from wherever they are on the planet. It doesn’t matter where the dam is, or where the person who is managing it is, they can log in to it and see what’s happening in real time,” said Carr. Customizable alarms can be set for when instrument readings start to rise or drop hazardously. Daily or hourly reports can be scheduled. “So instead of the old model of going every six or 12 months with your independent auditor to a tailings dam, the auditor could look at the tailings dam every day if they wanted to and have a report every morning. They give actions and insights to the customer based on what’s happening live as opposed to a single point every few months,” Carr explained. The solution is being rolled out globally after a successful two-month trial with an undisclosed mining customer where Inmarsat, “delivered hundreds of thousands of individual data points per month,” according to Carr.
What’s next? GKM Consultants’ Le Borgne expects cloud-based data management technology to sophisticate further, with data
Courtesy of Sensemetrics
Web-based tools such as analysis set to leverage the power of Sensemetrics’ data big data. “No one is pushing the management systems are envelope yet to fully take advantage responsive, user-friendly solutions to tailings of these platforms, such as implestorage facility monitoring. menting machine learning, predictive monitoring, standardized modelling, BIM [building information modelling] integration,” he said. He said that the industry needs to undergo a culture change in order fully embrace the technologies that already exist. “What we often see right now, at least at larger or older mines, [is that] we speak to people in production, we speak to people in environment, we speak to people in geotech and they all have similar needs, but they don’t talk to each other. So, we can have three clients on the same mine. The reality is that, with modern tech, it’s fairly easy to integrate all these monitoring requirements in a single central system that will really cut costs and make more money available for better monitoring or other operations.” SNC-Lavalin’s LePoudre predicts a similarly data-drenched future. He expects that over the next 10 years, software companies will “offer integrated management systems that allow data to be imported in real-time to complete three-dimensional geological models of tailings facilities and immediately update slope stability predictions, potentially even using artificial intelligence.” And, Meehan of Sensemetrics added, “as mining clients become more successful at addressing data management challenges, they will immediately progress to demanding platforms that are able to transform this data into insights that deliver value to departments across a mine’s operations. Successfully providing this value will require platforms that build an ecosystem of technology partners to deliver outcomes that will leverage cutting edge technologies such as AI and machine learning.” CIM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 55
CIM AWARD WINNERS he recognition of excellence within the mining and mineral industry is a tradition of which CIM is extremely proud. The CIM Awards, handed out at the CIM-Caterpillar Celebration of Excellence Banquet this year, honour the industry’s finest for their outstanding contributions in various fields. Their achievements and dedication are what make Canada’s global mineral industry a force to be reckoned with.
CIM COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD Recognizes a CIM member
JULIAN BOLDY GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY SERVICE AWARD Rec-
ognizes an individual’s exceptional service to the Geological Society of CIM. Serge Perreault MEL W. BARTLEY OUTSTANDING BRANCH AWARD Given to
the CIM branch demonstrating the most progress in reaching the aims and objectives of the Institute. Porcupine Branch MINING ENGINEERING OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Recognizes outstanding achievement or contribution in the field of mining engineering. Previously known as the Underground Mining Society Award. Jarek Jakubec
who has fully given his or her time and devotion to several aspects of community service and support in the minerals industry. John F. H. Thompson
MINING SAFETY LEADERSHIP MEDAL Recognizes exceptional
CIM DISTINGUISHED LECTURERS Chosen on the basis of their
ROBERT ELVER MINERAL ECONOMICS AWARD Presented to
accomplishments in scientific, technical, management or educational activities related to the minerals industry. The recipients present their lectures at CIM branch and student chapter meetings across the country. Betty-Ann Heggie, Brian Lee Crowley,
a member of the Institute who made significant contribution in mineral economics over the course of the previous year.
Mayana Kissiova, Nathan M. Stubina, Théophile Yameogo
edges companies, facilities and individuals that have implemented projects and initiatives to expand and promote sustainable development within the mining sector. The two categories for this award are environmental excellence and community engagement.
CIM DISTINGUISHED SERVICE MEDAL Awarded to an individual for exceptional service to the Institute and industry. Tim Skinner CIM FELLOWSHIP Handed out for outstanding continuous
contributions to the mining, metallurgical and petroleum industries. André (Andy) Lemay, Bryan A. Coates, Donna Beneteau, Florent Baril, Graham Farquharson, James (Jim) W. Hewitt, Jean Fortin, Piers M. Ebsworth, Shannon Campbell CIM BEDFORD CANADIAN YOUNG MINING LEADERS AWARD
Celebrates the bright future of leadership in the mining industry by recognizing the exceptional achievement and potential of young Canadian leaders. Agus Pulung Sasmito, Darren
contribution towards improving mining health and safety results within the Canadian mining industry. Gordon Winkel
Terence Ortslan TOWARDS SUSTAINABLE MINING (TSM) AWARDS Acknowl-
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AWARD Glencore – Raglan Mine for their Tamatumani project ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE AWARD Iamgold – Essakane SA mine for their solar project VALE MEDAL FOR MERITORIOUS CONTRIBUTIONS TO MINING
Nathan, Elenor Siebring, Shannon Katary
Presented to an individual for his or her distinctive contributions to the mining and metallurgical industry. Peter N. Calder
BARLOW MEDAL FOR BEST GEOLOGICAL PAPER Awarded to
JOHN T. RYAN SAFETY TROPHIES Awarded to mines that
the best geological paper published in CIM publications during the preceding year. A. Hamid Mumin, Alexander Prikhodko DIVERSITY & INCLUSION AWARD Recognizes exceptional con-
tributions towards improving diversity and inclusion in the mining industry. Mafalda Arias 56 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
experience the lowest reportable injury frequency per 200,000 hours worked in each category. The respective categories include national trophies for coal, metal and select mines, and regional trophies for four different metal mine regions and two select mine regions.
Agnico Eagle – Mine Lapa (Metals) Mosaic Potash Esterhazy Limited – K1 Mine (Select); Vale – Voisey’s Bay Mine (Select) Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC (Westmoreland) – Paintearth
New Gold Inc. – New Afton Mine (Metal BC/Yukon) Cameco Corporation – Cigar Lake (Metal Prairie/Territory) Goldcorp – Red Lake Gold Mines (Metal Ontario) GIencore Nickel – Mine Raglan (Metal Quebec/Maritimes) Imperial Oil Resources – Kearl Operations (Select West) DeBeers Canada – Victor Mine (Select East)
Mine and Poplar River Mine (Coal)
MINING STARS Every year there are repeat winners of the John T. Ryan Trophies for lowest reportable injury frequency in the previous year, but two companies really stand out from the crowd for their consecutive wins. New Gold Inc. for its New Afton Mine and DeBeers Canada for its Victor Mine. New Gold’s training programs, safe work procedures, site housekeeping and operational standards aim to improve workplace safety and minimize risk to people and equipment. For six years running, the New Afton Mine has won the
Regional Metal trophy for lowest accident frequency in British Columbia and Yukon. Though DeBeers Canada’s Victor Mine gave up its last load of ore this spring, it ended production the way it began, with a strong health and safety track record. For five consecutive years, the mine took home a John T. Ryan Trophy for mining safety. In 2015, 2016 and 2017, Victor received a National Award for Select Mines. In 2018 and again this year, Victor has won the Regional Select East Award.
New Afton Mine Victor Mine
May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 57
lettre de l’éditeur
FRANCOPHONE Des travaux bien faits MAI 2019
58 Lettre de l’éditeur 59 Mot de la présidente 60 Comblons les vides en matière d’assainissement des mines Par Sue Longo
62 Les prix d’excellence de l’ICM Compilé par Michele Beacom article de fond
64 La spirale de la chaîne d’approvisionnement On prévoit une explosion de la production de métaux nécessaires à la fabrication de batteries ; mais l’industrie estelle prête à faire face à la demande ? Par Kylie Williams
70 Un monument symbole d’avenir La construction modulaire permet de poursuivre l’agrandissement de la mine K3 de The Mosaic Company à Esterhazy dans les temps et le budget escomptés Par Kylie Williams
Nous publions progressivement sur notre site Internet les articles du CIM Magazine en version française.
e printemps est toujours la période la plus active de l’année pour le bureau national de l’ICM à Montréal, et la montagne d’échéances cette année semble particulièrement escarpée. Les membres de l’équipe des congrès et des expositions s’affairent aux derniers détails de nombreux événements petits et grands qui, ensemble, font du congrès annuel notre événement phare. À l’heure où cette édition approche de sa publication, le nouveau site Internet CIM.org (une nouvelle version du visage numérique de l’institut, agréable et adaptée aux dispositifs mobiles) s’apprête à être lancé. Si vous ne l’avez pas encore visité, vous devriez y jeter un coup d’œil. Au-delà de sa navigation simple et d’un style nouveau, le site vous fera découvrir CIM Link, une nouvelle fonctionnalité pour l’ICM. Cette plateforme communautaire permet aux membres de se retrouver, d’engager des discussions et de se tenir informés des actualités de l’institut par le biais de ses nombreuses sociétés et sections ainsi que de ses experts spécialisés. J’espère vous y trouver ; chaque personne qui prend part à cette plateforme la rend plus forte. L’équipe du CIM Magazine a aussi connu des changements ces derniers temps ; nous venons en effet d’accueillir notre nouveau chef de rubrique Matthew Parizot, qui a rencontré notre équipe de rédaction l’année dernière après avoir passé l’été dans nos bureaux en tant qu’interne. Depuis, s’appuyant sur son expérience, il a rédigé plusieurs rubriques du magazine, et a fait preuve du talent et de la curiosité que nous cherchons tant au sein de notre équipe de rédaction. En plus de diriger notre rubrique Actualités, M. Parizot met son imagination au service de notre compte Instagram (@cim_mag) ; n’hésitez pas à le suivre. C’est avec grand plaisir que nous retrouvons Herb Mathisen, ancien interne et éditeur, au sein de nos pages du magazine. Pour célébrer le 20e anniversaire de la création du territoire du Nunavut, M. Mathisen a rédigé un article dédié à la communauté inuite et la façon dont elle a obtenu des droits aux ressources du sous-sol pour certaines des meilleures parcelles du territoire (The long view, p. 16, en anglais uniquement). Ce récit évoque les longues et fastidieuses négociations ainsi que la recherche efficace d’un consensus, dont le territoire ressent encore les répercussions positives. Enfin, je tiens à féliciter Gillian Woodford pour son article Green goop yields a breakthrough, en p. 38 (en anglais uniquement), qui a analysé en détail un article paru dernièrement dans le CIM Journal dans le cadre de notre dossier sur la fermeture et l’assainissement. Mme Woodford a montré, tout comme les chercheurs de l’université Laurentienne qui ont rédigé cet article, que le green goop, cette substance visqueuse verte (des microalgues), a le pouvoir de récompenser les esprits curieux. Ryan Bergen, Rédacteur en chef firstname.lastname@example.org @Ryan_CIM_Mag
mot de la présidente
Un privilège et un plaisir
on mandat de présidente de l’ICM touchant à sa fin, je contemple avec enthousiasme cette année exceptionnelle. La présidence de l’ICM a été une expérience très enrichissante qui m’a permis d’assister à de nombreux événements organisés par les sections, les sociétés et le bureau national. J’ai toujours été impressionnée par le professionnalisme, l’engagement et le dévouement des bénévoles et du personnel de l’ICM, et tiens à remercier chacun et chacune d’entre vous. Vous êtes le cœur de l’ICM. Lorsque j’ai commencé mon mandat, j’ai insisté sur le fait qu’ensemble, nous sommes plus forts, et j’ai essayé de créer une communauté plus connectée et collaborative. Pendant mon année à la présidence, j’ai constaté par moi-même la portée de cet esprit de collaboration. Autour du thème Un ICM pour tous, nous nous efforçons de renforcer les liens qui rapprochent les divers comités, sections et sociétés de l’ICM, et de partager les meilleures pratiques. Cette année, le
congrès de l’ICM montrera que ces efforts ont porté leurs fruits. Ensemble, nous avons élaboré un programme technique solide, dynamique et intégré. En plus d’offrir des possibilités de perfectionnement professionnel ciblées et axées sur l’actualité pour mieux servir ses membres, l’ICM propose cette année une programmation plus unifiée dotée d’un contenu plus spécifique. Ma priorité reste de faire de l’ICM le porte-parole de l’industrie canadienne des mines, des minéraux, des matériaux et du pétrole. Cet institut technique réunissant plus de 10 000 membres soutient ces secteurs en proposant un contenu technique et une expertise de haute qualité fondés sur les faits. Durant l’année qui vient de s’écouler, l’ICM a joué un rôle actif dans la conférence des ministres de l’énergie et des mines (CMEM), et auprès des autorités canadiennes en valeurs mobilières (ACVM) et d’autres organisations importantes. Plus récemment, l’ICM a orchestré la formation de l’initiative Global Action on Tailings (l’action mondiale contre les résidus miniers) de la Global Minerals Professionals Alliance (GMPA, l’alliance mondiale des professionnels du secteur des ressources minérales). Ces activités nouvelles et en cours, et notamment celles liées aux ressources et aux réserves minérales, aux pratiques exemplaires et au développement de normes, confirment les contributions importantes de l’ICM, de ses membres du personnel et de ses bénévoles à l’industrie. Grâce au leadership et au dévouement de nos anciens présidents, notamment Garth Kirkham, Michael Winship et Ken Thomas pour ne citer que les plus récents, ainsi que de nos futurs présidents talentueux Roy Slack et Samantha Espley, et à la vision stimulante de la directrice générale Angela Hamlyn, l’ICM repose sur une base solide et ses perspectives d’avenir sont optimistes. Je remercie tous ceux et celles qui m’ont soutenu pendant cette année formidable, notamment le personnel du bureau national, les membres du conseil, les membres et les bénévoles de l’ICM, mon employeur Ressources naturelles Canada, mes collaborateurs ainsi que ma famille. C’est un honneur que d’avoir été la présidente de l’ICM durant l’année 2018-2019.
Janice Zinck Présidente de l’ICM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 59
Comblons les vides en matière d’assainissement des mines Par Sue Longo
ombre de fusions et acquisitions dans le domaine de l’exploitation minière comprennent des actifs engendrant une certaine responsabilité. Des mines clôturées ou des zones au sein d’une mine qui ont été fermées peuvent exiger une remise en état importante. Lorsqu’il faut combler les vides souterrains sujets aux effondrements et les zones de résidus qui présentent des risques environnementaux, la tentation est grande de résoudre les problèmes en un tour de main. Mais souvent, plutôt que de les éliminer, ces solutions provisoires atténuent les dangers et un certain degré de responsabilité persiste. Pour la remise en état durable et efficace des chantiers souterrains dans les mines clôturées, ou dans la partie clôturée des mines en activité, il convient de suivre cinq étapes.
1. Étudiez la propriété et ses problèmes dans son intégralité La première étape consiste à bien comprendre le site minier, notamment son infrastructure en surface et en souterrain. Recueillez des informations précieuses telles que les plans de mine, les renseignements spécifiques à l’ouvrage fini concernant les cloisons souterraines et les installations de stockage des résidus, les rapports du concentrateur relatifs aux broyages et aux mélanges, ainsi que les emplacements des gisements. Pour les mines qui ont une longue durée de vie ou ne sont plus exploitées depuis des décennies, ce genre d’informations peut être difficile à obtenir. Il conviendra donc de fouiller dans les registres de la société. À partir de là, l’équipe chargée de la fermeture peut élargir ses recherches afin d’inclure les registres de la mairie, les anciens propriétaires et même des sources inattendues telles que des employés de la mine à la retraite, qui pourraient avoir chez eux des dessins. Une fois cette documentation recueillie, commencez à combler les lacunes en menant des enquêtes physiques. Mettez à profit la géophysique et les capacités des géoradars pour identifier les vides souterrains inconnus qui pourraient ne pas figurer sur les plans de la mine à votre disposition. Évaluez tous les résidus sur le site et effectuez des essais afin de déterminer si ces matériaux peuvent servir au remblai, ce qui vous permettra de réduire les besoins en stockage en surface et de savoir quels nouveaux matériaux doivent être amenés sur le site. Menez des enquêtes relatives au forage assorties de levés tridimensionnels de sondage afin de trouver les chantiers ouverts, d’évaluer leur état et de déterminer la résistance du pilier de couronne ; toutes ces informations vous aideront à établir votre plan d’assainissement final. 60 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Une étude approfondie vous aidera à économiser du temps et de l’argent. Par exemple, notre société a travaillé sur le site d’une mine clôturée où des chaperons de béton avaient été installés dans un premier temps sur les ouvertures vers la surface. Cependant, une étude plus poussée a permis de déterminer que les espaces vides sous les chaperons devaient être remblayés, ce qui au final rendait inutiles ces chaperons de béton. Si une étude plus approfondie avait été menée dès le début, on aurait pu les omettre sur le plan ou les concevoir différemment, ce qui aurait permis un gain de temps ainsi que des économies en termes de remaniement et de coûts supplémentaires.
2. Comprenez bien l’objectif final de l’assainissement Le deuxième élément le plus important consiste à définir l’objectif à terme. L’utilisation finale des terres consistera-t-elle uniquement à rendre à ces sols leur état naturel ? Le public aura-t-il accès à ces terres ? Un développement à des fins résidentielles ou autres est-il prévu pour le site ? C’est en ayant une idée claire de l’objectif visé pour le site après la fermeture que les étapes suivantes seront définies. Une société adoptera une approche totalement différente envers un site isolé selon que ce dernier est principalement non accessible au public ou qu’il est destiné à un contexte urbain avec des bâtiments existants ou prévus sur des terres altérées. Par exemple, l’installation de grands chaperons de béton armé au-dessus de puits de mine et de galeries d’accès pourrait ne pas être compatible avec la création future d’une aire de loisirs et requérir une surveillance régulière, mais elle pourrait convenir à un site isolé.
3. Planifiez vos travaux L’étape de l’étude, associée à l’utilisation finale des sols, orientera l’équipe chargée de la fermeture pour le développement d’un plan d’assainissement. C’est là que tous les efforts et les dépenses des deux premières étapes porteront leurs fruits. Grâce à sa connaissance approfondie du site, l’équipe peut désormais évaluer les options les plus adaptées pour atteindre l’objectif qu’elle s’est fixé. Elle peut rapidement éliminer les options ne répondant pas à cet objectif, identifier des méthodes d’exécution plus rentable des travaux et réaliser des gains de rendement.
4. Travaillez en fonction de votre plan - la phase de construction Il est important d’accorder suffisamment de temps et de flexibilité à votre phase de construction pour laisser la place aux imprévus. Une étude approfondie
chronique En suivant ces cinq étapes, votre propriété minière sera moins susceptible d’être portée à l’attention de la haute direction comme une obligation à vérifier.
contribue à réduire le nombre d’inconnues, mais vous rencontrerez inévitablement des difficultés inattendues pendant cette phase. À mesure que vous découvrez de nouveaux éléments du site, qu’il s’agisse de jonctions jamais identifiées entre les chantiers ou de résidus qui ne se comportent pas comme on s’y attendait, vos connaissances du site s’enrichissent et vous adaptez votre plan en fonction.
en fonction des sites mais en définitive, lorsqu’on élimine le danger plutôt que de l’atténuer, les besoins en matière de surveillance sur le long terme diminueront considérablement, voire même disparaîtront totalement. Sur le court terme, après le remblai des vides souterrains, vous pouvez vous attendre à devoir procéder à une surveillance et une vérification initiales. Ceci permettra de confirmer que les vides ont bien été remblayés, et que le remblai et le pilier de couronne se comportent comme prévu. Cette procédure de vérification est souvent une exigence établie par la loi. Une fois la vérification effectuée, vous ne devriez plus avoir besoin d’assurer une surveillance sur le long terme, car le danger aura été éliminé. En suivant ces cinq étapes, votre propriété minière sera moins susceptible d’être portée à l’attention de la haute direction comme une obligation à vérifier. ICM
5. La surveillance L’exécution en bonne et due forme des quatre premières étapes vous permet d’anticiper vos besoins en termes de surveillance et d’élaborer un plan répondant à vos objectifs, qu’il s’agisse de trouver une solution qui n’exigerait absolument aucune intervention ultérieure ou une surveillance régulière minimale. Les exigences varient
Sue Longo, ingénieure et titulaire d’une maîtrise en administration des affaires, est associée principale de Golder pour l’exploitation minière à l’international, et se spécialise dans l’élimination des dangers physiques dans les mines.
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LAURÉATS DES PRIX DE L’ICM ’ICM est très fier de sa tradition consistant à mettre à l’honneur et à reconnaître l’excellence au sein de l’industrie des mines et des minéraux. Les prix d’excellence de l’ICM font honneur aux plus grandes personnalités de l’industrie pour leurs contributions exceptionnelles dans divers domaines. Leurs réalisations et leur dévouement font toute la force de l’industrie minière canadienne partout dans le monde.
CONFRÉRIE DE L’ICM Ces prix sont octroyés pour des contribu-
tions remarquables constantes aux industries des mines, de la métallurgie et du pétrole. André (Andy) Lemay, Bryan A. Coates, Donna Beneteau, Florent Baril, Graham Farquharson, James (Jim) W. Hewitt, Jean Fortin, Piers M. Ebsworth, Shannon Campbell PRIX JEUNES LEADERS CANADIENS DU SECTEUR MINIER ICM-BEDFORD Ces prix mettent à l’honneur l’avenir brillant du
leadership dans l’industrie minière en récompensant les accomplissements exceptionnels et le potentiel des jeunes chefs de file de l’exploration minière au Canada. Agus Pulung Sasmito, Darren Nathan, Elenor Siebring, Shannon Katary
PRIX DE L’ICM POUR LES SERVICES RENDUS À LA COMMUNAUTÉ Ce prix récompense les « héros méconnus », des indi-
MÉDAILLE BARLOW POUR LE MEILLEUR ARTICLE DANS LE DOMAINE DE LA GÉOLOGIE Cette médaille est attribuée au
vidus qui se sont entièrement dévoués à plusieurs aspects des services rendus à la communauté et au soutien à l’industrie minière et à l’ICM. John F. H. Thompson
meilleur article dans le domaine de la géologie sélectionné pour une parution dans une publication de l’ICM au cours de l’année antérieure. A. Hamid Mumin, Alexander Prikhodko
ÉMINENTS CONFÉRENCIERS DE L’ICM Les éminents con-
PRIX DÉDIÉ À LA DIVERSITÉ ET L’INCLUSION Ce prix met à
férenciers de l’ICM sont choisis en fonction de leurs accomplissements dans des activités scientifiques, techniques, de gestion ou éducatives dans des domaines liés à l’industrie minière. Les lauréats de ce prix exposent leur thème de prédilection lors des réunions des sections et des groupes étudiants de l’ICM dans le pays. Betty-Ann Heggie, Brian Lee
l’honneur les contributions exceptionnelles en matière de diversité et d’inclusion au sein de l’industrie minière. Mafalda Arias
Crowley, Mayana Kissiova, Nathan M. Stubina, Théophile Yameogo
PRIX JULIAN BOLDY POUR LES SERVICES RENDUS À LA SOCIÉTÉ DE LA GÉOLOGIE Ce prix récompense les services
exceptionnels rendus par un individu à la société de la géologie de l’ICM. Serge Perreault
MÉDAILLE DE L’ICM POUR SERVICES REMARQUABLES Cette
PRIX MEL W. BARTLEY POUR LES ACCOMPLISSEMENTS REMARQUABLES DES SECTIONS LOCALES Ce prix est attribué
médaille récompense un individu pour ses services remarquables à l’institut ou à l’industrie des minéraux. Tim Skinner
à la section de l’ICM ayant fait les plus grands progrès vers la réalisation des objectifs fixés par l’institut. Porcupine Branch
62 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
PRIX POUR DES ACCOMPLISSEMENTS REMARQUABLES EN GÉNIE MINIER Ce prix, qui s’appelait auparavant le prix de la
société d’exploitation minière souterraine, a été créé dans le but de récompenser les accomplissements ou les contributions remarquables dans le domaine du génie minier. Jarek Jakubec MÉDAILLE POUR LE LEADERSHIP DANS LA SÉCURITÉ MINIÈRE Pour contribution exemplaire dans l'amélioration de la
santé minière et des résultats concernant la sécurité dans le domaine de l'industrie minière au Canada Gordon Winkel PRIX D’ÉCONOMIE DES MINÉRAUX ROBERT ELVER Ce prix
récompense un membre de l’institut qui a contribué de manière importante à l’économie des minéraux au cours de l’année qui s’est écoulée. Terence Ortslan
TROPHÉES JOHN T. RYAN Ces trophées sont attribués aux
mines d'une catégorie donnée qui affichent la fréquence la plus faible d'accidents déclarables sur 200 000 heures de travail. Les catégories respectives comprennent des trophées nationaux pour les mines de charbon, métallifères et « sélectes », ainsi que des trophées régionaux pour des mines métallifères de quatre régions différentes et des mines « sélectes » de deux régions. TROPHÉES NATIONAUX Agnico Eagle – Mine Lapa (mines de métaux) Mosaic Potash Esterhazy Limited – K1 Mine (mines sélectionnées); Vale – Mine de la baie Voisey (mines sélectionnées) Prairie Mines & Royalty ULC (Westmoreland) – Paintearth
Mine et Poplar River Mine (mines de charbon) TROPHÉES RÉGIONAUX
PRIX DE L’INITIATIVE VERS LE DÉVELOPPEMENT MINIER DURABLE (VDMD) Le prix VDMD récompense des sociétés, des
installations et des individus qui ont contribué à la mise en oeuvre de projets et d’initiatives visant à développer et à promouvoir le développement durable au sein du secteur minier. Les deux catégories récompensées par ce prix sont l’excellence environnementale et l’engagement communautaire. Prix VDMD en engagement communautaire : Glencore – Mine Raglan, projet de Tamatumani
New Gold Inc. – Mine New Afton (mines de métaux C.-B. /
Yukon) Cameco Corporation – Cigar Lake (mines de métaux Prairies /
Territoires) Goldcorp – Red Lake Gold Mines (mines de métaux Ontario) GIencore Nickel – Mine Raglan (mines de métaux Québec / Maritimes) Imperial Oil Resources – Kearl Operations (mines sélectionnées Ouest) DeBeers Canada – Victor Mine (mines sélectionnées Est)
Prix VDMD en excellence environnementale : Iamgold – Mine Essakane SA, projet solaire MÉDAILLE VALE POUR DES CONTRIBUTIONS MÉRITOIRES À L’EXPLOITATION MINIÈRE Cette médaille récompense un indi-
vidu pour ses contributions à l’industrie des mines et de la métallurgie au Canada. Peter N. Calder May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 63
DE LA CHAÎNE D’APPROVISIONNEMENT Par Kylie Williams
Largo Resources produit de la pentoxyde de vanadium à la mine Maracás Menchen au Brésil
Avec l’aimable autorisation de Largo Resources
On prévoit une explosion de la production de métaux nécessaires à la fabrication de batteries ; mais l’industrie estelle prête à faire face à la demande ?
es batteries constituent une méthode simple et polyvalente de stocker l’énergie électrique dans toute sorte de dispositifs, depuis les minuscules équipements médicaux implantables et dispositifs électroniques personnels jusqu’aux véhicules, maisons, bâtiments, mines et réseaux de villes entières. On les connaît mieux pour leurs applications portables, notamment dans des dispositifs électroniques et des véhicules, mais elles ont aussi des usages permanents et stationnaires comme le stockage dans le réseau de l’électricité générée à partir de sources renouvelables, par exemple l’énergie solaire et éolienne. Pour les sociétés minières, l’économie à faibles émissions de carbone en plein essor et le rôle primordial des batteries représentent à la fois un défi et une occasion. La demande en métaux nécessaires à la fabrication des batteries est, certes, vouée à augmenter, mais quels métaux seront les plus recherchés ? Actuellement, les principaux moteurs de cette demande sont les véhicules électriques (VE) et les matériaux nécessaires à la fabrication de différents types de cathodes dans leurs batteries lithium-ion (Li-ion) tels que le lithium, le nickel, le cobalt, le manganèse et l’aluminium. La fabrication des VE ne constitue cependant qu’une partie de l’équation. La charge des VE dans un système électrique qui dépend fortement de l’énergie éolienne ou solaire requiert un stockage d’énergie fiable pour la stabilisation du réseau. « La capacité renouvelable, provenant essentiellement des énergies éolienne et solaire, doublera au cours des dix prochaines années », déclarait Daniel Brenden, analyste principal en matière d’énergie et de sources renouvelables chez Fitch Solutions. « Le problème des énergies éolienne et solaire est qu’elles sont par nature instables, qu’elles dépendent des conditions météorologiques et que leur fiabilité repose sur une grande capacité de stockage. Les véhicules électriques constituent le principal moteur de croissance de la capacité de stockage qui fait surface. »
Des compositions divergentes
es constructeurs automobiles du monde entier investissent des milliards de dollars pour les décennies à venir dans le développement de nouveaux modèles de VE et l’élimination progressive des moteurs à combustion interne (MCI). D’après J.P. Morgan, les ventes de véhicules électriques rechargeables à l’échelle mondiale atteignaient presque un million de véhicules, soit 1 % des ventes pour l’année 2016. Selon les prévisions de la société, ces ventes atteindront près de 8,4 millions de véhicules, soit une part de marché de 7,7 % d’ici 2025. « Avec un VE, l’important est de pouvoir stocker autant d’énergie que possible dans un espace toujours plus restreint, aussi la densité énergétique est très importante », expliquait 66 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
M. Brenden. « C’est là où les applications de [batteries] pour VE diffèrent des applications en réseau, car elles n’ont pas les mêmes limites en termes d’espace. » Dans une série d’articles publiés à la fin de l’année 2018, Fitch Solutions prévoyait qu’à l’échelle mondiale, les cathodes de nickel-manganèse-cobalt (NMC) domineraient les ventes de batteries pour VE à l’avenir, mais que les cathodes moins coûteuses de lithium-fer-phosphate (LFP) conserveraient une présence importante sur les marchés chinois. La cellule LFP ne contient pas de cobalt, sa densité énergétique est faible et par conséquent, elle a une portée peu élevée ; elle présente cependant des avantages, notamment son faible coût, une stabilité thermique intéressante et la capacité à être déchargée et rechargée à plusieurs reprises. Les cathodes NMC sont le type de batteries Li-ion qu’utilisent la plupart des fabricants de VE européens, lesquels apprécient leur stabilité thermique, leur haute densité énergétique et leur faible coût. « La capacité à stocker beaucoup d’énergie dans un véhicule et d’effectuer de grands trajets entre chaque charge est indispensable pour rendre plus attrayants les VE auprès d’un public plus vaste », indiquait M. Brenden. « Ceci incitera à augmenter l’usage du nickel dans les batteries. » Nickel Le nickel est un métal abondant, déclarait George Heppel, analyste principal pour les marchés du cobalt, du lithium et des batteries au sein du groupe CRU. De nombreux gisements de nickel de catégorie 2, idéaux pour la production d’acier inoxydable, sont à l’étude, particulièrement en Asie du sudest. C’est toutefois la pénurie de nickel de haute pureté de catégorie 1 nécessaire aux batteries et aux alliages spéciaux qui pose problème. « Si l’on trouve du nickel en grande quantité sur le marché », indiquait M. Heppel, « le problème est réellement de savoir où nous allons trouver les matériaux de haute qualité adaptés à une utilisation dans les batteries. » La solution la plus ardue consiste à trouver et à développer de nouveaux gisements riches en nickel de catégorie 1 ; toutefois, un autre procédé techniquement complexe, l’exploitation minière par lixiviation acide sous haute pression (HiPAL, de l’anglais high pressure acid leach), pourrait constituer une option. Le procédé HiPAL produit du sulfate de nickel (la matière première nécessaire à la production des batteries) directement sur le site minier à l’aide d’un procédé de séparation à haute température et haute pression qui est appliqué au minerai de latérite, relativement abondant. Sumitomo Metal Mining (SMM) déclare avoir été l’une des premières sociétés à tester la technologie HiPAL dans son exploitation de nickel aux Philippines. Cobalt À l’échelle mondiale, plus de la moitié du cobalt est extraite en République démocratique du Congo (RDC), un pays rela-
Lithium, aluminium et manganèse Les trois autres composants essentiels à la fabrication des batteries des VE, à savoir le lithium, l’aluminium et le manganèse, sont abondants, relativement peu coûteux et faciles à extraire. Sur ces trois composants, la chaîne d’approvisionnement en manganèse est celle qui pose le moins problème. Le manganèse est un élément abondant, que l’on trouve sous une forme utilisable et qui bénéficie d’un marché fort appuyant sa production à d’autres fins. « Le lithium est indéniablement le métal le plus affecté par la forte augmentation de la demande en VE et en batteries, surtout parce que ces dernières sont au cœur de la forte demande en lithium », expliquait M. Heppel. D’après une analyse récente menée par le groupe CRU, la fabrication de batteries en 2018 représente pour la première fois plus de 50 % de la demande en lithium. Le groupe CRU
prévoit une croissance rapide de la demande en batteries à lithium au cours des dix prochaines années ; d’ici 2023, plus de 69 % de la demande en lithium concernera les batteries. Si l’aluminium est lui aussi abondant, nous avons besoin des fabricants pour le transformer en alumine à haute pureté
Source : London Metal Exchange
tivement instable sur le plan politique où les mineurs artisanaux extraient environ un cinquième du minerai de cobalt à la main. Comme le déclarait le 18 juin 2018 sur Twitter le cofondateur et chef de la direction de Tesla Elon Musk, « nous utilisons actuellement moins de 3 % de cobalt dans nos batteries, et nous n’en utiliserons plus du tout dans la prochaine génération ». Si cet objectif est admirable, M. Heppel avertissait qu’il ne serait pas facile à atteindre dans la décennie à venir, car le cobalt est un élément extrêmement important pour la composition chimique de la batterie. En effet, il tient lieu d’agent stabilisateur et empêche la batterie de surchauffer. « Le cobalt est extrêmement important pour préserver la sécurité de la batterie », indiquait M. Heppel. « Nous continuerons à réduire la teneur en cobalt de nos batteries, mais pour ce qui est de l’éliminer complètement, nous n’en sommes pas encore à cette étape. En termes de stabilité, de coût et de facilité de production, les composants chimiques des batteries au cobalt ne peuvent en effet pas être remplacés par n’importe quel élément. » Jusqu’à ce que l’on identifie une autre source acceptable de cobalt, le monde continuera d’acquérir la majeure partie de son cobalt en RDC, où les risques de nationalisation des ressources sont grands et où le gouvernement a tendance à modifier de manière soudaine les lois minières, notamment en mettant en œuvre des interdictions imprévues sur les exportations de cobalt telles que celle de mars 2019. Le troisième type de batterie Li-ion utilisé dans les VE est la batterie à nickel-cobalt-aluminium (NCA). Les batteries à NCA se trouvent à mi-chemin entre celles à NMC et à LFP, avec une teneur moins élevée en cobalt mais une densité énergétique plus forte. Tesla déclarait en milieu d’année 2018 que la teneur en cobalt des éléments de batterie à NCA utilisées dans le VE de modèle 3 contenait moins de cobalt qu’une batterie à NMC affichant un rapport nickel-manganèse-cobalt de moins de 8:1:1. Quatre de ces batteries à NCA seront utilisées pour alimenter les semi-remorques que Tesla envisage de commencer à fabriquer en 2020.
May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 67
Des véhicules électriques lourds à batterie
Un fondement pour les applications stationnaires
Avec l’aimable autorisation de Largo Resources
(HPA, de l’anglais high-purity alumina), utilisée comme séparateur dans les éléments de batterie, un fin revêtement entre l’anode et la cathode. « Il existe un risque de pénurie de HPA », expliquait M. Heppel. « L’aluminium n’est pas enclin à la pénurie, mais le transformer en cette forme de HPA pourrait poser problème. L’investissement est important, notamment en Australie, mais si des obstacles ou un manque d’investissement venaient à se produire, il faudra alors s’inquiéter. »
resse tout le monde est AKASOL, notre fournisseur de batteries allemand. » AKASOL fabrique des batteries Li-ion de diverses compositions, dont plusieurs versions de la batterie à NMC. MEDATECH utilise principalement la nanobatterie d’AKASOL, une version hybride entre une cellule NMC et une cellule de lithium-titane-oxyde (LTO). Le résultat est une batterie riche en énergie adaptée aux demandes qui pèsent sur l’équipement lourd. M. Rennie recommande la nanobatterie d’AKASOL pour les véhicules qui requièrent beaucoup d’énergie et une grande capacité énergétique, par exemple un camion de transport. Tout comme pour les véhicules commerciaux particuliers, la difficulté réside dans la coordination du régime de chargement en fonction du type de batterie et de ses fins. « La batterie est réellement importante », expliquait M. Rennie. « Ce qui est tout aussi important, c’est le lieu où vous allez la charger. Les technologies ne seront sans doute pas très différentes dans dix ans, mais on investira incontestablement beaucoup plus dans l’infrastructure de chargement. »
La mine Maracás Menchen de Largo Resources au Brésil
n plus des millions de véhicules électriques pour particuliers qui devraient être mis en circulation dans les dix années à venir, il convient de parler de l’attrait des véhicules électriques lourds à batterie dans tout un éventail de secteurs, dont le secteur minier. Étant donné le coût de remplacement des équipements lourds, de nombreux exploitants envisagent désormais de rénover leur équipement lourd alimenté au diesel en les équipant de batteries électriques. Robert Rennie est le président de Mobile Equipment Design and Automation Technology (MEDATECH), une société basée en Ontario qui convertit les véhicules à MCI en des véhicules électriques à batterie à l’aide de techniques personnalisées. Environ 80 % des clients de MEDATECH travaillent dans le secteur minier, et l’équipe a récemment collaboré avec MacLean Engineering pour fabriquer une niveleuse automotrice entièrement rénovée en un véhicule électrique fonctionnant à 100 % sur batterie pour la mine Borden Lake de Goldcorp, qui deviendra la première mine souterraine entièrement électrique. « Nous ne nous arrêtons pas à une composition en particulier », expliquait M. Rennie. « L’élément principal qui inté68 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
i certaines applications stationnaires utilisent des piles de batteries Li-ion, notamment car il s’agit du seul type de batterie disponible ces dernières années, le vanadium, que l’on utilise principalement pour renforcer l’acier, devient le métal de prédilection pour le stockage en réseau. « Certains faits se produisant au sein de l’industrie du vanadium changent rapidement la donne en termes de demande », expliquait Mark Smith, chef de la direction de Largo Resources, une société d’extraction du vanadium basée à Toronto produisant environ 10 000 tonnes de produits à base de vanadium par an à la mine Maracás Menchen, au Brésil. « L’un d’eux concerne la norme pour barre à béton armé qui a vu le jour en Chine. » En novembre 2018, la Standardization Administration of the People’s Republic of China (SAC, l’administration de normalisation de la République populaire de Chine) a présenté de nouvelles réglementations exigeant que les barres à béton armé (une barre en acier renforcé) répondent à des exigences spécifiques en termes de limite d’élasticité, un objectif réalisable en ajoutant environ un kilogramme de vanadium à une tonne d’acier. D’après Vanitec, une association commerciale internationale de producteurs de vanadium basée au Royaume-Uni,
ces nouvelles réglementations visent « à réduire l’utilisation d’acier ne répondant pas aux normes, et à rendre plus résistants aux tremblements de terre les bâtiments en Chine. » Ce métal est également un élément important dans les batteries rechargeables à flux à oxydoréduction au vanadium (VRFB, de l’anglais vanadium redox flow battery). « Le moment est bien choisi au vu de toutes les énergies renouvelables qui font leur entrée sur le marché », indiquait M. Smith. « Les consommateurs ou les sociétés de services publics n’en auront pas grand usage s’ils ne les associent pas à une batterie. » Le premier brevet pour une VRFB a été accordé il y a plus de 30 ans à des chercheurs de l’université de Nouvelle-Galles du Sud à Sydney, en Australie, mais la batterie a seulement été commercialisée ces dernières années. L’avantage d’utiliser le vanadium pour stocker l’énergie réside dans les quatre états d’oxydation différents des sels de vanadium. L’anode et la cathode sont deux espèces du vanadium. À l’intérieur d’une VRFB, deux électrolytes sont mélangés dans un assemblage de cellules, mais sont maintenus séparés par une fine membrane perméable échangeuse d’ions. Une réaction redox (ou réduction-oxydation) a lieu dans la cellule, générant un flux d’électrons qui produit de l’énergie électrique. En stockant les deux solutions d’électrolyte liquide contenant différents sels de vanadium dans des réservoirs différents, les solutions ne se dégradent pas. « Le vanadium ne se consomme pas comme dans une batterie Li-ion », expliquait M. Smith. « Il s’agit d’une manière préférable de stocker l’énergie renouvelable ou du réseau, puis de la distribuer lorsque le public en a besoin. » Les VRFB longue durée sont bien adaptées aux applications stationnaires, car leur capacité peut facilement être augmentée en ajoutant davantage d’éléments. Cependant, la concurrence pour l’utilisation du vanadium à d’autres fins est intense. D’après Vanitec, on a produit à l’échelle mondiale 80 523 tonnes métriques de vanadium en 2017. À l’heure actuelle, un peu plus de 90 % du vanadium est destiné à l’industrie de l’acier. Vanitec estime que la demande potentielle de vanadium pour les batteries pourrait augmenter et atteindre 25 000 à 30 000 tonnes par an d’ici 2025. Le vanadium de grande pureté est également très demandé pour une nouvelle batterie Li-ion au vanadium développée par le fabricant de montres Swatch et Belenos Clean Power Holding Ltd. pour diverses utilisations, notamment pour un usage dans les VE développés par le fabricant automobile chinois Geely. « Nous avons rencontré Swatch car la société avait besoin de vanadium très pur, et Largo en produit », indiquait M. Smith. « Nous sommes l’un des deux fournisseurs vers qui la société peut se tourner. » Les perspectives pour les explorateurs et les producteurs de vanadium sont de bon augure. Largo mène l’exploration d’un site désaffecté et travaille sur un projet d’agrandissement afin d’augmenter sa production à la mine Maracás Menchen pour atteindre 12 000 tonnes de pentoxyde de vanadium (V205) par an. Les autres compositions des batteries évoluent à pas de géant sur la scène du stockage fixe d’énergie. Deux sociétés australiennes développent actuellement une autre techno-
logie de batterie à flux qui repose sur la composition zincbrome. La première, Redflow Energy Storage Solutions basée à Brisbane, a récemment installé des batteries à zincbrome à flux pour stocker de l’énergie solaire et fournir une source d’énergie fiable à un village isolé dans le nord montagneux de la Thaïlande. Ce projet, soutenu par le gouvernement thaïlandais, utilise des cellules solaires pour exploiter l’énergie et un système hybride de batterie haute performance, dont le modèle de batterie ZBM2 de Redflow, pour stocker l’énergie nécessaire à un mini-réseau pour alimenter le village, distinct du réseau national de distribution de l’électricité. La société Gelion Technology du nord de Sydney, en Australie, met au point une batterie fonctionnant au zinc et au brome qui repose sur un électrolyte sous forme de gel, et non liquide, à l’intérieur. Ces batteries sont ininflammables, ignifuges et suffisamment flexibles pour être incorporées dans diverses applications.
La demande est claire, mais qu’en est-il de l’offre ?
lors que les chercheurs et les fabricants s’efforcent de développer des batteries fiables et à bas prix affichant des capacités toujours plus importantes de densité de stockage de l’énergie et de charge et recharge, les compositions et les technologies de batteries progressent rapidement. Il est évident que les matières premières nécessaires à leur confection resteront très demandées. Cependant, la demande ne suffit pas, prévenait David Anonychuk, directeur général de la société de conseils en exploitation minière M. Plan International Limited. « Ce n’est pas la demande qui est cœur du problème, mais plutôt la pénurie que nous risquons fort probablement de rencontrer », déclarait M. Anonychuk. « Ni l’investissement ni les sociétés ne suffisent aujourd’hui à recueillir le capital nécessaire [pour faire avancer les projets dédiés aux métaux nécessaires à la fabrication des batteries]. » D’après M. Anonychuk, la réticence à investir dans des projets dédiés aux métaux nécessaires à la fabrication des batteries dont font preuve les grandes sociétés et les institutions financières actuellement risque de créer une pénurie en matière d’offre d’ici quelques années. « Nous pouvons parler de la magie de la demande, mais qui est confronté aux plus grands risques ? Ce sont les sociétés automobiles et de produits chimiques qui ont besoin de batteries Li-ion pour atteindre les objectifs qu’elles se sont fixés », expliquait M. Anonychuk. Ce dernier prévoit que le tournant en termes d’investissement de l’industrie des batteries se produira lorsque les sociétés automobiles et des produits chimiques commenceront à proposer de sérieux contrats d’approvisionnement ou des acquisitions d’actifs miniers. Actuellement, aucune grande société minière ne s’est diversifiée afin d’inclure des projets dédiés au créneau spécifique des métaux nécessaires à la fabrication des batteries. « Ce n’est que lorsque les sociétés automobiles commenceront à investir que d’autres investisseurs emboîteront le pas - c’est le signal », concluait M. Anonychuk. ICM May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 69
Le chevalement de la mine K3 à Esterhazy s’élève au-dessus de la prairie de la Saskatchewan et marque un tournant pour le complexe minier, lequel commence à peine à se remettre de plusieurs décennies de déboires liés aux arrivées d’eau dans la mine Le puits de la mine K3 a hissé son premier godet rempli de potasse en fin d’année dernière, et continuera de remonter du minerai en surface pendant encore au moins un demi-siècle.
e chevalement Nord de la nouvelle mine de potasse K3 d’Esterhazy de The Mosaic Company (Mosaic) s’érige à 114 mètres au-dessus des plaines du sud de la Saskatchewan. Cette structure massive, sans doute le chevalement le plus élevé au Canada, mesure 18 mètres de haut et autant de large à sa base, et renferme deux énormes treuils. Le treuil d’extraction minière Koepe destiné à la production a été mis en service en 2018. Il hissera jusqu’à la surface des bennes pouvant contenir 60 tonnes de potasse, extraites à plus d’un kilomètre sous terre ; le treuil Blair, plus petit, est équipé d’une cage de 27 tonnes qui transporte personnes et équipement. L’installation du treuil à tambour Blair dans les limites imposées par le chevalement a été l’un des nombreux exploits techniques de ce projet. Le treuil Koepe dans le chevalement Nord peut hisser 11 millions de tonnes américaines par an ; un second treuil Koepe le rejoindra bientôt à 137 mètres de là dans le chevalement Sud, dont la construction devrait débuter au printemps 2020. À pleine capacité, les deux treuils pourront transporter plus de 20 millions de tonnes américaines de potasse à la surface chaque année, permettant ainsi à Mosaic de construire et d’exploiter la plus grande mine souterraine de potasse et la plus compétitive au monde, un objectif qu’elle s’est fixé pour 2024.
Le chemin parcouru
Mosaic a lancé son projet d’agrandissement de la mine K3 d’Esterhazy en 2011 pour échapper aux problèmes d’arrivée 70 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
de saumure dans la mine contre lesquels se bat la société dans ses exploitations K1 et K2 depuis 1985. Pendant plus de 30 ans, Mosaic a investi des millions de dollars chaque année pour éliminer la saumure par pompe dans ses mines K1 et K2 afin de pouvoir poursuivre ses activités. Rien qu’en 2012, la société a dépensé 250 millions de dollars américains dans la gestion des arrivées de saumure à Esterhazy. Lawrence Berthelet, vice-président du génie et du capital pour l’unité commerciale dédiée à la potasse de Mosaic, indiquait que l’emplacement de K3 avait été soigneusement choisi pour accéder à la même couche de potasse d’Esterhazy que celle extraite sur les sites K1 et K2, mais aussi pour apposer une zone tampon entre les anciennes et les nouvelles mines afin d’éliminer le risque d’arrivée d’eau. M. Berthelet, qui a rejoint Mosaic pour diriger le projet de construction de la mine K3, entretient un lien familial unique avec la mine ; en effet, son père travaillait pour la société de construction qui a bâti K1 en 1957. Mosaic a fait équipe avec Hatch, une société spécialisée dans les services d’ingénierie, d’approvisionnement et de gestion de la construction (IAGC), ainsi que plusieurs autres grands entrepreneurs pour construire K3. Les travaux préparatoires de ce projet de 3,2 milliards de dollars ont commencé en 2012, avec la construction des chevalements Nord et Sud qui abriteraient l’équipement nécessaire au fonçage du puits. Des techniques de congélation ont été employées pour contrôler l’arrivée d’eau tout en fonçant des puits de six mètres de diamètre. Des trous ont été creusés autour du périmètre des
Avec l’aimable autorisation de The Mosaic Company / Greg Huszar
profil de projet
puits et un fluide caloporteur à - 35 degrés Celsius (- 35 °C) a été envoyé par pompe le long de manchons insérés dans les trous de forage pour congeler le sol. Dans ce noyau de protection gelé, on a effectué des opérations de forage, d’abattage à l’explosif et de marinage pour l’excavation couche par couche du puits de mine. Des excavatrices ont été suspendues en dessous d’une plateforme de fonçage de puits de mine (Galloway) pour charger les débris résultant de l’explosion et s’en débarrasser ; le puits a ensuite été couvert d’un revêtement pour empêcher les arrivées d’eau.
Mosaic touche le fond, enfin
En février 2017, Mosaic a atteint la couche de potasse tant attendue à 1 021 mètres sous terre, et remonté son premier godet rempli de potasse à la surface. L’objectif était de poursuivre le puits jusqu’à 1 088 mètres, mais cette victoire a marqué un tournant historique pour la société et la province, car K3 est devenu le premier puits de production de potasse foncé en Saskatchewan ces 50 dernières années. L’étape suivante a été atteinte en mai de cette même année, lorsque Mosaic a terminé la connexion des galeries d’accès entre les puits Nord et Sud, ce qui a permis l’aérage à renouvellement continu nécessaire à l’équipement fonctionnant au diesel pour le développement souterrain.
Deux des plus grosses difficultés rencontrées lors du projet d’agrandissement de K3 étaient la pénurie de main-d’œuvre
d’une part, et les conditions météorologiques de l’autre. Pour surmonter ces difficultés, Hatch a eu recours à une approche modulaire pour la phase de construction. Waiward, une société de fabrication de Saskatoon, a été sélectionnée pour fabriquer et pré-assembler les profilés en acier, qui ont ensuite été transportés par camion vers le site. « Notre objectif était de réduire le risque pendant la construction des points de vue de la sécurité, du coût et du calendrier. La conception et la construction modulaires nous ont permis d’atteindre ces trois objectifs, car nous avons pu éliminer du site des milliers d’heures de travail risqué », déclarait Mark Deziel, directeur de l’exploitation minière pour l’Amérique du Nord chez Hatch. « Depuis que nous avons mis en œuvre ce programme modulaire, nous avons installé 250 tonnes d’acier modulaire durant le projet de transition relative au chevalement Nord et transporté environ 300 tonnes d’acier dans le fond du puits. » La plus grosse pièce à avoir été transportée sur les 400 kilomètres séparant Saskatoon à Esterhazy était le module constituant le centre du point de déchargement pour le chevalement qui, avec ses 18 mètres de long et 6 mètres de large, pesait 56 tonnes. D’après M. Deziel, l’approche modulaire a permis de gagner 45 jours de travail sur le calendrier, soit 25 %, en réduisant le temps de construction sur le site. « Le chevalement Sud, qui se trouve actuellement en phase de conception détaillée, sera constitué à 100 % d’acier installé à l’aide de pièces pré-assemblées ; ceci devrait permettre à Mosaic de diminuer le travail sur place de 24 000 heures, de réduire son calendrier de construction de 6 mois et d’économiser 20 millions de dollars en coût en capital », expliquait M. Deziel, ajoutant que « la planification de la construction dès la phase de conception est essentielle ». Beaucoup de gros éléments de l’équipement minier ont également été amenés sous terre au niveau de la mine dans de grandes sections à l’aide des treuils de fonçage. Fin 2017 et début 2018, l’équipe a amené sous terre une machine d’extraction à tambour en seulement quatre pièces. « Il s’agit du plus gros élément descendu dans un puits de potasse dans l’histoire du Canada », indiquait M. Berthelet. « Nous avons procédé quatre fois sans aucun incident. Normalement, il faut compter deux ou trois mois pour assembler une machine d’extraction à tambour, et la décomposer
SPÉCIFICITÉS DU PROJET : Déclassement de K1 – 2021 Déclassement de K2 – 2023 Hauteur de la couche de potasse à Esterhazy – 8 pieds (environ 2,5 mètres) Réserves de potasse : 879 millions de tonnes (MT), dont concentration en K2O de 24,7 % Durée de vie de la mine : plus de 50 ans May 2019 • Mai 2019 | 71
en multiples pièces. Nous avons réussi à descendre cette machine sous terre en seulement quatre morceaux. La plus grosse pièce pesait 60 tonnes, et nous l’avons assemblé en environ 10 jours. »
Une artère terrestre
Le projet a passé un autre tournant en décembre 2018, lorsque la mine a envoyé sa première benne remplie de potasse le long du nouveau transporteur terrestre de 11 kilomètres qui relie la mine K3 au concentrateur K2 d’Esterhazy. Plutôt que d’investir des milliards de dollars pour construire de nouvelles installations de traitement et de gestion des résidus à K3, Mosaic a fait des investissements de capitaux ces dernières années pour progressivement moderniser les circuits et les équipements dans les usines de traitement existantes de K1 et K2, ainsi que pour utiliser les nouvelles courroies de transport de 11 kilomètres permettant d’acheminer le minerai de K3 jusqu’aux installations de K1 et K2. « Avec sa production de 21 millions de tonnes américaines, la mine K3 deviendra la plus grande mine de potasse du monde », déclarait M. Berthelet. « Nous prévoyons de pouvoir traiter tout ce minerai une fois que nous aurons atteint notre capacité à K3. »
Le transporteur de K3 à K2 étant désormais en service, la prochaine étape consistera à mettre en service le transporteur entre K3 et K1 ; d’après M. Berthelet, cela est prévu pour le milieu ou la fin de l’année 2020. Le treuil d’extraction minière Sud devrait être opérationnel d’ici 2022.
Intensification de la productivité
Afin d’optimiser le rendement et la productivité à la nouvelle mine, Mosaic applique au site K3 les enseignements qu’elle a tirés de ses 50 années d’exploitation minière à K1 et K2, en y ajoutant de nouveaux équipements automatisés plus efficaces en souterrain, et en installant sous terre un réseau de communication de base en Wifi pour une communication et un transfert de données plus performants. Lorsque Mosaic approchera de sa pleine capacité à K3, les mines K1 et K2 seront déclassées. « Nous sommes en bonne voie pour atteindre notre pleine capacité à K3 d’ici 2024 », expliquait M. Berthelet. « Il est cependant encore trop tôt pour donner un calendrier précis du déclassement. » La difficulté actuelle à K3 est de remplir la zone souterraine avec suffisamment de perforatrices qui pourront couper la potasse et alimenter ce nouveau treuil affamé. ICM
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MINING LORE Lake Superior’s Silver Island By Kaaria Quash
74 | CIM Magazine | Vol. 14, No. 3
Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada
ocated on a small Life in the town of rocky island just Silver Islet on the mainoff the northern land was governed by shore of Lake Superior, the mining company, Silver Islet mine was once which took under its the most lucrative silver charge municipal mine of its time – until it responsibilities such as was swallowed by the town planning, road raging waters of the lake. repairs and law enforceFor 13 years, it proment. Frue, a devout vided some of the highest Methodist, restricted quality silver in the workers to one drink world. Large nuggets of after each shift, or three the metal were discovdrinks a day. The barered there, some so pure tender, who also douthey did not need to be bled as the librarian, smelted. Over the course was responsible for of its lifetime, the mine keeping score of how produced 2,605,786 many drinks each ounces of silver, worth worker took. A jail was Structures of the Silver Islet mine off the coast of Lake Superior in 1921. $3.25 million. built for any ruffians The Montreal Mining that got out of line. Company first started digging for its treasure in 1868. DevelIn her book, Barr says that if mining towns “were ranked on oping the mine was not easy, however, and the unpredictable a scale of one to ten,” Silver Islet would be a ten. Company nature of Lake Superior made it an engineering nightmare to houses were treated to a panoramic view of the lake, most of maintain. in 1870who created the Silver Islet Mining Com- them out of earshot of the mine, which was short boat ride pany to advance the project. away. There were two churches on the mainland, as well as To protect water from inundating the mine shaft, head engi- barracks for miners without families that could accommodate neer William B. Frue designed a break wall – a massive fortress 300 men. Over 480 men worked on the mine, and workers of wood and stone to act as a barrier to the fury of the lake’s were paid a salary of $68 a month, but 20 per cent of that fee storms – along with pumps to keep the water out. In the book was charged for lodging. Silver Islet: Striking it Rich in Lake Superior by Elinor Barr, Frue The last days of the mine came in March 1884. To keep the was said to have likened the effects of a storm to a military raging waters of the lake at bay, coal-fueled pumps would push siege: “It seemed as though the water would surely succeed in the water out. regaining the whole of its territory and in driving its invaders Workers constantly fed the pumps with coal to keep it runfrom the ground.” ning, but the coal itself was running out. At this point the mine Workers had to travel 384 metres into the Earth every day had rolled back its payroll to 42 men and was preparing to sell. – comparable to climbing by ladder down the length of the The silver had also started to run out. At its peak in 1878, the Empire State Building. mine produced 721,632 ounces. By 1883, that number had In the depths of the tunnels, the flickering flame of candles dwindled to 1,874 ounces. The pumps eventually failed when propped onto rudimentary hard hats were the only source of a crucial shipment of coal did not arrive in time, and the lurkillumination. To avoid running out of oxygen, pipes descend- ing waves finally forced their way in. Workers were evacuated ing from the surface kept the underground workings venti- out of the mineshafts and off the island as the frigid waters of lated. the lake swallowed up the mine. Communication at the time, which was limited to mail Over the 150 years since the mine’s discovery, Silver Islet posts, was made even slower by the lack of roads or railways has since turned into a seasonal cottage community, with in the area. Mail usually arrived by boat across the lake, or by many of the original families owning property there. Whatever dogsled when the lake froze over. Shipment of mine material silver remains lies in the dark abandoned tunnels claimed by also had to be made by boat. Lake Superior. CIM
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Battery metals Modular construction at Mosaic’s Esterhazy K3 Tailings storage facility monitoring