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Ring of Fire miner considers harnessing the wind

Ring of Fire Metals conducts wind studies as part of its sustainability plan
(Company photo)

The new owners of the Eagle’s Nest nickel project in the Ring of Fire are testing the use of wind power as part of its strategy to create a zero emissions mine in the James Bay region.

Ring of Fire Metals (formerly Noront Resources) said in a news release that it has commenced two studies exploring the use of wind power and atmospheric carbon removal.

Stephen Crozier, the company’s vice president of sustainability, said they are encouraged by the findings from a wind energy study conducted earlier this year by Windlab, a global renewable energy company.

“Our primary focus in the development of Eagle's Nest is to implement low emissions technologies throughout the operation, wherever possible," he said in a Nov. 1 release. 

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"We are encouraged by the results of the initial wind study and believe there is good potential to generate clean energy using wind turbines in the area, which we will further define with additional study in the near term.”

The company is designing Eagle’s Nest, located about 500 kilometres northeast of Thunder Bay, to be a zero-emissions mine by incorporating the use of electric vehicles underground and the installation of renewable energy systems wherever possible. The use of wind and solar aren’t reliable enough to power a mine so the company will use diesel generation at the outset until a power line is extended into the area or other greener means of generating power are deployed.

Eagle’s Nest, potentially the first mine that could be put into production in the multi-mineral basin that is the Ring of Fire, is in the advanced design stage and is years away from going into production. 

Crozier mentioned in the release that other power generation methods being considered include biomass, and pumped hydro and solar.

Following completion of the Windlab study, the company installed a Vaisala WindCube® lidar to obtain more precise measurements “throughout the air column from the base to the top of the turbine blades rather than just at the hub," said Stephen.

Data from the studies, he said, will be matched with projected power demand to guide modelling of power generation and storage options for the mine.

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Crozier said ultimately they would like to be able to draw from the provincial power grid whenever it is extended into the northern remote communities.

To reduce surface disturbance and lessen the mine’s environmental footprint, plans are for the mine waste tailings will be backfilled underground in mined-out areas instead of being stored on the surface in an impoundment areas as with traditional mining operations. 

But further to that, Ring of Fire Metals said it is also participating in the DETAILS project with Dr. Liam Bullock at Geosciences Barcelona in Spain to investigate the potential to use mine tailings to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

"The tailings from ultramafic nickel deposits have been shown to have the potential to absorb significant quantities of carbon dioxide, and there may be ways we can speed up the rate that this happens," said Crozier.

Canada Nickel Mining, a prospective nickel miner near Timmins, is exploring the same possibility.

"We have provided Geosciences Barcelona with samples of tailings from the Eagle's Nest project and they are evaluating their potential for carbon dioxide absorption,” said Crozier. “We hope to be able to use our tailings to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and safely and permanently store it underground."