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Carbon tax a win for miners

Any miners out there with doubts over the carbon tax may be about to change their tune.
It appears the waste rock from some mining operations could become a valuable by-product as a source of carbon sequestration.

If the gas trapping capabilities of waste material were put to their full potential, they could not only make energy-intensive operations carbon neutral but also earn credits.

University of British Columbia geologist and mining engineer Michael Hitch has unearthed the sequestration potential (SP) of waste rock from mines.

He said mine waste rock was rich in magnesium silicate, which could react with CO2 and chemically fix it in place as magnesium carbonate.

Mr Hitch found the amount of CO2 stored can be up to 10 times greater than total greenhouse gas production from some mine operations. Nickel, diamond, copper, chromite, platinum, palladium and talc mines are the best bet and some of the larger operations could store as much as 5 million tonnes or more of CO2 annually.

“I don’t like waste. I like to see efficient use of the resources,” Mr Hitch said.

He said instead of using just 1 per cent of the materials from a big mining pit, a company could receive value from the unwanted rock.

“All of a sudden this material starts having value, and this material starts taking on a position in the company’s cash flow as a by-product,” Mr Hitch said.

“It really kind of changes the dynamics of the mining operation.”

The researchers are now looking at ways to speed up the process and have already found CO2 fixation is greatly accelerated in mine tailings, presumably due mainly to the large surface area exposed and available to react after rocks are crushed into small particles.


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