Today Magazine • March 2022

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TODAY Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley

The Phoenix Tailings Story

TOXIC HASTE

Tech Startup Senses Urgency of Finding Value in Mining Waste

MARCH 2022

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• There are over 60 different species of deer worldwide, per the OneKindPlanet.org website — they live on every continent except Antarctica • A male deer is called a buck, but some larger males are referred to as stags — a female deer is called a doe

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FROM DECKERT’S DESK

Defining Tailing Terms COVER STORY

Led by a Canton native, avant-garde tech startup Phoenix Tailings finds hidden value in reclaiming hazardous mining waste VETERAN VOICES

The Avon VFW is updating the Avon Veterans Memorial with the names of those who served more recently VALLEY INTEL

Phoenix Tailings CEO Nick Myers leads the charge to transform mining waste into valuable metals

IF YOU’RE UNFAMILIAR with the term tailings, you’re not alone — until recently, I was as clueless as a metropolis klutz in a barnyard regarding the definition and application of the word. For the uninitiated, the term is a plural noun with a specific meaning — it refers to the toxic waste that is a byproduct of the mining industry. Misapplied and misunderstood by a linguistic or scientific klutz who is either deliberately ignorant or woefully oblivious, tailings can have catastrophic consequences. But when tailings are properly disposed, the hazardous issues can be mitigated. Yet what if tailings can be recycled and repurposed? What if caring and competent scientists can sidestep the too-often-evident cluelessness of the conventional experts and recognize the value inherent in this toxic waste? What if precious metals are hiding in tailing cesspools around the world? Canton native Nick Myers, CEO of innovative tech startup Phoenix Tailings, asserts this is no what-if proposition. See page 4 for this hopeful story — BWD

BUSINESS BEAT

The Simsbury and Granby chambers of commerce have joined forces to better serve local businesses QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“Phoenix is the legendary bird that is resurrected ... Phoenix Tailings represents life being born from the ashes of the waste” — CEO Nick Myers BY THE NUMBERS

Phoenix awards and grants — 11

Today Magazine • Covering the Heart of the Farmington Valley Bruce William Deckert — Publisher + Editor-in-Chief 860-988-1910 • Bruce.Deckert@TodayPublishing.net www.TodayPublishing.net > Digital Editions • Award-Winning Today Online • 24/7 news — www.TodayPublishing.net/blog Follow Today Magazine CT on social media: Advertising — Contact the Publisher Editorial Associate — Kayla Tyson Contributing Photographer — Wendy Rosenberg Five Towns, One Aim — Exceptional Community Journalism Farmington • Avon • Canton • Simsbury • Granby – CT, USA

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COVER STORY KUDOS Today Magazine’s February cover story featured Habitat for Humanity’s mission of making the dream of homeownership a reality for cash-limited area families — CLICK HERE for the story THANK YOU for the opportunity to share Habitat with the Farmington Valley. We truly appreciate it. — Karraine Moody • CEO Habitat for Humanity of North Central Connecticut THANK YOU for the wonderful article. I hope that this will help to bring awareness of our mission at Habitat for Humanity of North Central Connecticut. — Suzanne Feola Director of Development • Habitat for Humanity WHILE I DON’T ALWAYS have time in my day to read, I did stop long enough recently to read your article about Habitat for Humanity and it was truly inspiring. I was an avid reader as a child and even as a young adult, but “adulting” seems to get in the way of many things. I am simply a reader who was inspired by that story — and I am grateful that you have this magazine that is willing to publish these types of stories to remind us of our humanity and how helping others is such a good thing for all of us. Bravo! — Dr. Eileen O’Neil Avon Public Schools THANK YOU SO MUCH for publishing Kate Emery’s feature in the February issue. It looks terrific, and we really appreciate this opportunity to share her journey as an artist and her mission to support local nonprofits through her work. I was so happy to see your cover story on Habitat for Humanity, too. It’s one of my favorite organizations. — Kim Knox Beckius Publicist for Kate Emery Art SUBSCRIBE to TODAY for FREE — CLICK HERE TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – MARCH 2022

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TOXIC HASTE

COVER STORY BUSINESS BEAT

CEO Sees Urgency of Zero-Waste Mission By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

LET’S PLAY word association. But first, for the uninitiated, allow Today Magazine to introduce you to a startup tech company called Phoenix Tailings — led by CEO Nick Myers, a Canton native who was born and bred right here in the Farmington Valley. Now, let’s play — with online dictionaries as the association arbiters. Round 1 of our Word Association Game: • The Word — tailing • noun • Definition #1 — residue separated in the preparation of various products, such as ores and grain — usually used in plural • Merriam-Webster Dictionary • Definition #2 — the residue of something, especially ore — “tailings from the mine may contaminate local waterways” • Oxford Languages Dictionary via Google 4

• Definition #3 — waste left over after certain processes, such as from an orecrushing plant or in milling grain • Dictionary.com ————————————— Here is Round 2: • The Word — phoenix • noun • Definition — mythical bird in ancient stories that lives for 500 years, burns itself to death, and then is born again from its ashes, repeating the cycle every five centuries • compilation of online dictionaries ———————————————— And here is Round 3: • The Word — tail + tailing • verb • Definition #1 — to follow for purposes of surveillance • Merriam-Webster • Definition #2 — follow and observe closely, especially in secret • Oxford Languages via Google • Definition #3 — to follow in order to

MARCH 2022 – www.TodayPublishing.net – TODAY MAGAZINE

hinder escape of, or to observe — “to tail a suspect” • Dictionary.com • Thesaurus — bird-dog, chase, follow, hound, hunt, pursue, shadow, stalk, trace, track, trail ——————————————————————————— Naturally, CEO Myers is the best source — together with his fellow company founders — for the truest word association and best definition of the award-winning and accolade-garnering company known as Phoenix Tailings. What exactly is the significance of the company’s name? “Tailings are the technical term for the mining waste material we work with,” says Myers. “Phoenix is the legendary bird that is resurrected. Phoenix Tailings represents life being born from the ashes of the waste.” Speaking of word associations, do you tend to associate the verb tail with a


Phoenix Tailings Finds Value in Mining Waste

Photos – here + cover – courtesy of Google

LEFT + COVER — In their state-of-the-art lab today, Phoenix Tailings scientists extract valuable metals from toxic mining waste ABOVE — Hazardous red mud in a tailings pond in Germany BELOW — Phoenix Tailings founders (left-to-right) Nick Myers, Michelle Chao and Tomas Villalon run their very first tests in Villalon’s apartment in Cambridge, MA

—————————————————————————— Exclusive Interview with Phoenix Tailings CEO Nick Myers —————— PAGE 10 —————————————————————————— positive or negative connotation? Pursue, follow and chase — these associations can be seen as positive. Stalk, hound and hunt — these can be seen as negative. In the case of Phoenix Tailings, these so-called positive and negative connotations can be complementary rather than competing — and we can blend the above connotations and definitions and concepts in an alphabet soup amalgam that summarizes the goal of this innovative tech startup as follows: Phoenix Tailings is, indeed, tailing and chasing and hounding “the mission to leverage untapped value within mining and refining waste … [while] eliminating this harmful waste from the environment [and] sustainably creating valuable materials” — per the firm’s website. Further, the term alphabet soup is TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – MARCH 2022 Courtesy Photos – Phoenix Tailings

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Phoenix Tailings founders Tomas Villalon and Michelle Chao conduct early tests in the backyard of Villalon’s Cambridge apartment

CEO Nick Myers

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doubly fitting here because the byproducts of the mining industry become a toxic soup that is discarded in large landfills called tailings ponds. One specific type of tailing is called red mud, a toxic remnant of the industrial process that refines bauxite (aka raw aluminum ore) into aluminum oxide (aka alumina). “Red mud is specifically bauxite residue, a byproduct of alumina production,” says Myers. “Tailings are the general term for all mining and metals production operations.” Sometimes red mud is stored as a soupy sludge, and sometimes the mud is dried, thus becoming red dust. Rather than being resigned to a world where hazardous red mud and red dust sit indefinitely while posing a threat to humans and the environment, the Phoenix Tailings team recycles the valuable ore in the tailings — “treating them as a new ore” — and extracts useful primary metals “in a holistic and sustainable manner,” per the website. The metals restored from the former waste ore are salvaged and then utilized as raw materials in the production of cellphones, automobiles, aviation components and more — in diverse industries such as aerospace, biotechnology, defense, medical technology and water treatment. Located in Woburn, MA — about 10 miles north of Boston — the company has 16 full-time employees along with five consultants and three interns, and is poised to grow like a well-fertilized well-watered garden. “We’re bringing together the right people, the right brilliant minds, the right passionate individuals to find a solution for one of the biggest challenges in the world,” Myers says in a Phoenix Tailings YouTube clip. Four young co-founders comprise the firm’s leadership team: COO Michelle Chao (26 years old), VP of partnerships Anthony Balladon (28), CTO Tomas Villalon Jr. (31) and CEO Myers (30). Myers is a 2014 graduate of Saint Michael’s College in Vermont (B.S. in physics) and a 2010 graduate of The Master’s School in West Simsbury. He has earned two master’s degrees: an MBA in marketing from Rochester Institute of Technology (2015) and an MBA in finance from Northeastern University (2017). He resides in Dorchester, MA — “technically,” he quips, because he has traveled on company business about 200 days in the past year. Established in 2019, Phoenix Tailings began as a dream in the backyard of Villalon’s apartment in Cambridge, MA. At this makeshift lab, the four founders built their first prototype for drawing out valuable metals from tailings residue. “It was a small chemical processing reactor — a metal box — that took bauxite residue from the tailings,” Myers explains, “creating iron and rare earths.” This up-and-coming tech company has received some impressive honors, including UConn’s annual Wolff New Venture Competition award in October 2019. The $20,000 prize represented “our first round of funding” and provided actual laboratory space, says Myers. “This moved us out of a backyard, and I still remember the feeling of this becoming something real.” Myers distinctly recalls the exhilarating rush of the honor. “The Wolff competition was the first opportunity for me to publicly present our dream and was one of the first validation points encouraging us to continue on our mission to bring about a zero-waste world,’’ he told the UConn Today news website. “Despite the incredible breadth of our dream, the near insurmountable tasks ahead of us, and all the challenges we face, the Wolff Competition gave us our first nudge of courage to never give up.”


COO Michelle Chao opens the first sample of red mud delivered to Phoenix Tailings — when it dries, red mud is also known as red dust

UConn Today described Phoenix Tailings as “a startup that could rid the earth of vast cesspools of toxic sludge.” Since then, investors and venture capital firms have clearly caught the Phoenix Tailings vision. The company has been funded with about $13 million to date, according to Myers — about $12 million in private funding and $1 million in government grants, including a Small Business Innovation Research award from the federal National Science Foundation. Further, Phoenix Tailings was chosen as one of 10 startups for the esteemed Techstars Boston 2020 cohort. On an individual level, Techstars and Barclays have selected Chao for their Female Founders First program — and Forbes has chosen Myers for its prestigious Next 1000 list that celebrates “entrepreneurial heroes” of the 21st century. While Myers appreciates the recognition, he underscores that the Phoenix Tailings journey has just begun. “I don’t care much for awards — we have a lot to accomplish, and I’m not content,” he says. “The awards are generally just fleeting publicity, which can be cool” — but he affirms that these honors must be leveraged in order to achieve Phoenix Tailings’ endgame mission. If anyone remains unclear about the words that are best associated with Phoenix Tailings, Myers hopes the answers become evident as the company pursues its mission in the days ahead. +

CEO Nick Myers

www.phoenixtailings.com • See page 10 for an exclusive Q&A with Phoenix Tailings CEO Nick Myers • There is surely more to report about Phoenix Tailings — look for further articles in upcoming editions of Today Magazine • Editor-in-Chief Bruce Deckert is an award-winning journalist, and he agrees with Myers — such honors are essentially worthless unless they’re leveraged for the greater good TODAY MAGAZINE – www.TodayPublishing.net – MARCH 2022

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AVON TODAY

VFW Updating Avon Veterans Memorial Special to Today Magazine

VETERAN VOICES

THE AVON VETERANS of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 3272 is planning to update the Avon Veterans Memorial to include additional names of veterans who served in foreign campaigns. The deadline for names to be included in the next update is March 31. The memorial currently lists the names of veterans who served in the Mexican War through the Persian Gulf War campaigns. The last update was done in 1996, and the VFW wants to ensure that all those whose names currently merit placement on the memorial are duly inscribed in the next update. To ensure that the VFW does the best possible job, a plan has been formulated to gather the names of candidates and to ensure that appropriate service criteria have been met and that family preferences for privacy are accommodated. Our community’s assistance is vital to the success of this effort. Eligibility Criteria Avon VFW Post 3272 uses the following criteria to determine eligibility for recognition:

National Archives. An online application — located at: www.archives.gov/ veterans/military-service-records — must be signed by the veteran. If your veteran is deceased or otherwise incapacitated, or you simply don’t have all the information the application asks you to supply, you can either write a letter specifying what you do know or use National Archives Form SF180 to make the request. Details about this alternative are here — www.archives.gov/veterans/militaryservice-records/standard-form-180.html VFW Post 3272 members can help you if needed. Gathering Names We currently have a list of 80 people, many of whom meet the criteria. Only about 20 are fully documented. We want to work with the community, helping people to secure documentation as needed, so we have as complete a list as possible. We also want to ensure that families do, in fact, wish their veterans’ names to

1 — Veterans must have been residents of Avon at the time of entry into service or deployment. 2 — Service, current or past, must be in one of the following: U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Space Force, U.S. Coast Guard, Connecticut National Guard (only if called to active duty) Recent military academy and cadet corps must have completed their third year of study and declared their branch of service in writing. 3 — Service must be documented: • Active service members can simply provide a copy of current assignment orders — PCS, TDY or Deployment. • Veterans must supply a DD-214 form — copies can be obtained at no charge, generally within 10 days, from the U.S.

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be inscribed on the memorial and that the names are spelled correctly. Please help us to get the recognition at the memorial in place for those who deserve it and wish to be recognized. We recognize that many families have moved from Avon since 1996. For eligible members of this group, we hope that current residents will remember veterans who no longer live in town and are able to contact them. If you know of anyone who you believe should be included in the list or wish to correct errors that you observe, contact the VFW Post Commander as follows: Avon VFW Post 3272 P.O. Box 297 Avon, CT 06001 The procedure for future updates will be the same, and names can be submitted anytime after the deadline for inclusion in future updates. + Source — Avon VFW Post 3272

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CANTON TODAY

CEO’s Goal: Zero-Waste World

COVER STORY BUSINESS BEAT

Phoenix Tailings: Turning Mining Waste into Valuable Metals Special to Today Magazine

CEO Nick Myers answered this Q&A on behalf of Phoenix Tailings —————————————————————— Manager + Other Principals: Nick Myers — 30 CEO & Co-Founder Canton, Connecticut Anthony Balladon — 28 VP of Partnerships & Co-Founder Durban, South Africa Michelle Chao — 26 COO & Co-Founder Houston, Texas Tomas Villalon Jr. • PhD — 31 CTO & Co-Founder San Antonio, Texas • with age + company role + hometown

—————————————————————— PHOENIX TAILINGS Address 8B Henshaw Street • Woburn, MA Editor’s Note — facility located 10 miles north of Boston Email info@phoenixtailings.com Website www.phoenixtailings.com Social Media www.linkedin.com/company/ phoenixtailings Year Established — 2019 —————————————————————— and this is the best way I can make an impact to help people. Most enjoyable aspect of your work?

Number of employees and consultants:

Getting to work alongside some of the smartest and most passionate people in the world.

16 full-time employees, 3 interns and 5 consultants — so 24 folks on the team

Your main obstacle, and how you overcome it?

Company slogan:

Hiring and identifying the best people. Nobody who ever did anything great did it alone, and it’s the people around you who make you great. This is a saying that we truly embrace at Phoenix, and we take great effort to find the best possible people. Honestly, the way we overcome it is by setting this as an absolutely critical objective that the entire company works on.

Clean Mining and Metals Production Company mission: To Create A Zero-Waste World Significance of the name Phoenix Tailings? Tailings are the technical term for the mining waste material we work with. Phoenix is the legendary bird that is resurrected. Phoenix Tailings represents life being born from the ashes of the waste. Why did you choose this profession? I want to change the world for the better,

Most satisfying accomplishment? Getting our first round of funding and laboratory space. This moved us out of a backyard, and I still remember the feeling of this becoming something real.

—————————————————————————— PAGE 4 — Cover Story: Phoenix Tailings —————————————————————————— Goals for the next five years? Build an operational facility that demonstrates to the world that mining waste does not truly have to be waste. What sets your business apart? The people. We bring in the best people in the world to focus on a problem, and give them the opportunity to make a difference. What do you appreciate most about the New England business climate? The unparalleled ecosystem for talent. With MIT, Northeastern, Harvard, UConn and so many top schools in the area, the people here are passionate and smart! What constructive change would you like to see in the New England business climate? I’d like to see more support in navigating the government and local ecosystems. There is a lot of support available, but honestly, it’s just hard to find where everything is. The business leader today who inspires you most? Robert Friedland — founder, Ivanhoe Mines and Ivanhoe Capital • mining guru Anecdote that provides a window into your company’s ethos: We were not started like most deep technology companies, out of a fully funded lab. … Phoenix Tailings was started when I met Tomas Villalon at a Bible study about four years ago. We started talking about all the major challenges in

Liza Sivek Marketing & Associates

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continued on page 14

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FARMINGTON TODAY

You know the saying — a picture paints a thousand words — yet it’s worth letting Tom Cameron explain his stunning photo: “This is one of the few places I’ve found to catch a sunrise on the Farmington River — it’s at the shoreline of the mead at the back end of the Tunxis Mead Athletic Fields in Farmington, where there is a small unmarked path

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just before the landfill that leads to the shoreline”


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SIMSBURY TODAY

Simsbury, Granby COCs Forge Historic Merger By Bruce Deckert Editor-in-Chief • Today Magazine

THE SIMSBURY Chamber of Commerce and Granby Chamber of Commerce have joined forces in a groundbreaking move aimed to strengthen the Connecticut business community. The memberships of both chambers voted overwhelmingly to approve the move in early March. The Simsbury-Granby merger comes in the wake of the uniting of the Avon and Canton COCs last year — the vote to confirm that pivotal development occurred in late 2020, with the de facto launch of the new Avon-Canton COC transpiring in January 2021. The new name of the merged Simsbury-Granby COC has yet to be determined. The combined organization will officially begin on June 1. This stronger, united COC hopes to serve a wider geographic area that encompasses the Farmington Valley, Greater Hartford and north-central Connecticut. Current Simsbury COC executive director Morgan Hilyard will lead the

merged COC. She took Simsbury’s chamber reins in March 2020 — the same month that the state-mandated COVID shutdown of nonessential businesses took place. “We are so proud to see membership take advantage of this historic opportunity,” Hilyard says, “and we Morgan Hilyard are so appreciative to all those who have put time and effort into this merger process.” Granby resident Tim Baker, owner of Simsbury-based investment planning firm Metric Financial, is slated to be the first board president of the new COC. He is currently on the board of directors of both the Simsbury and Granby COCs. Current Granby COC executive director John French is planning to retire after a constructive tenure serving the Granby business community. He was a longtime board member before becoming the director, including a stint as board president.

BUSINESS BEAT A post on the Granby CT Chamber of Commerce’s Facebook page thanks French for his service: “John was hired as the chamber’s paid administrator in 2016 and helped to grow membership, expand the website and increase awareness through social media. His contributions to the success of Celebrate Granby are immeasurable.” The five core Farmington Valley towns covered by Today Magazine are Avon, Canton, Farmington, Granby and Simsbury. The Farmington Chamber of Commerce disbanded in 2020, but the Farmington geographic area is included in the regional Central Connecticut Chambers of Commerce. Upcoming events for the combined Simsbury-Granby COC include: • Friday, March 25 • 7:30 a.m. Business Leaders Breakfast • Wednesday, March 30 • 5:30 pm Young Professionals Sip & Learn with Avon-Canton + Granby COCs • Monday, June 13 Granby & Simsbury Golf Tournament www.simsburycoc.org

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PHOENIX — continued from page 10 the world, as one does late at night. The major thing we focused on was the 173 billion metric tons of waste produced every year in the metals industry, enough to cover the entire state of California in a foot deep of sludge every year. Immediately, we said: “We cannot allow this to continue, and we need to find a solution to this problem.” So he brought in Michelle Chao, I brought in Anthony Balladon, and together we built the first prototype in Tomas’ backyard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The dream is to be the world’s first clean mining and metals production company with zero waste and carbon emissions — our belief being that if we get together the most passionate, most brilliant and most incredible people, we will solve any challenge in the world. +

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