TWIN METALS TO USE ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY DRY STACK TAILINGS AT COPPER-NICKEL MINE PLANNED IN NORTHERN MINNESOTA
ST. PAUL, Minn., July 18, 2019 – Twin Metals Minnesota (TMM) today announced plans to use the environmentally friendly dry stack method to store the leftover rock from its proposed underground copper-nickel mine to be located nine miles southeast of Ely, Minnesota. The dry stack method eliminates the storage pond and dam associated with conventional tailings facilities. It has been successfully used in four mines in the northern United States and Canada with similar climates to Minnesota and has been permitted at two mines in the western United States.
Tailings from a mine are the crushed rock left over after target minerals are removed. Using the dry stack method, remaining tailings will be compressed into low-moisture, sand-like deposits and stored on a lined ground facility near the plant site. Reclamation of the tailing site can occur in stages and can be capped or covered with natural vegetation.
“Dry stack tailing storage is the most environmentally friendly tailings management approach for our site,” said Kelly Osborne, chief executive officer of Twin Metals Minnesota. “The first key is that there’s no dam, no risk of dam failure. The moisture content of the filtered tailings is reduced to a material that we can compact and manage seasonally.
“Because there’s no risk of a dam failure, dry stack is considered the best available technology for tailings storage and, after a decade of study and consultation with concerned voices in our community, we determined that it will be an effective choice for our project.”
Community concerns about copper nickel mines have focused on fears of tailings dam failure or leaks that could threaten both nearby surface water and groundwater. Because there is no dam, risk of dam leakage or failure is eliminated.
Equally important is the fact that the tailings from the Maturi Deposit will be non-acid-generating.
“The common concern about sulfides points to a basic misconception about our project,” Osborne said. “The geology of the Maturi Deposit provides us with confidence that we can mine here safely and sustainably. The rock sandwiching the layer of copper, nickel and platinum group minerals in the deposit is almost completely free of sulfides. When the targeted minerals are removed during the concentration process and shipped to customers, only a minute amount of sulfides will remain in the tailings.”
Extensive testing over the past decade shows that Maturi Deposit tailings will be non-acid-generating.
Dry stack tailings storage, often promoted by environmental groups as an alternative to conventional wet tailings as a way to protect water quality, has been an option under consideration since Twin Metals began mine planning in 2010. As technology has continued to advance, and the application of dry stack in cold, wet climates has proven successful at multiple locations, Twin Metals made the decision to move to it as the best available option. The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy hailed the advantages of dry stack tailings in a statement earlier this year.
“Dry stack is one of the ways we are making a 21st century mine that will be the most technologically advanced mine in Minnesota’s history and a model of how copper mining can be done safely and sustainably,” said Osborne.
The approach will be outlined in detail in TMM’s Mine Plan of Operation, to be submitted to state and federal regulators in the coming months. Regulatory review, including hearings for public comment, will cover compliance with regulations to protect water and air quality, drinking water, wetlands, endangered species, plant life and cultural resources.
About Twin Metals Minnesota: Twin Metals Minnesota is a Minnesota company focused on designing, constructing and operating an underground copper, nickel, platinum, palladium, gold and silver mining project (TMM Project) in the Iron Range region of Northeast Minnesota. The TMM Project brings the promise of significant long-term jobs and environmentally responsible economic development for generations in Minnesota. Twin Metals is owned by Antofagasta plc, one of the top ten copper producers in the world. For more information, visit http://www.twin-metals.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/TwinMetalsMN/.