Giga Metals responds to Tesla call for nickel, aims for carbon-neutral mine

Matthew Hall 7 August 2020 (Last Updated August 7th, 2020 16:56)

Giga Metals last week responded to Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s call for sustainably sourced nickel, claiming that Canadian projects - and Giga’s own Turnagain project – are ideal sources of environmentally-responsible nickel for the electric vehicle producer.

Giga Metals responds to Tesla call for nickel, aims for carbon-neutral mine
The Turnagain project in British Columbia, Canada, is being developed by Giga Metals. Image credit: Giga Metals.

Giga Metals holds 100% ownership of the Turnagain project, in north-central British Columbia (BC), Canada. Turnagain is reportedly among the largest undeveloped sulphide nickel projects in the world, with metallurgical test work showing significant deposits of high-quality nickel that can be used in lithium ion batteries, with the site also holding cobalt, another critical element in battery production.

Turnagain is significant not for its resources – it is far from the only nickel mine in Canada, a country with strong environmental regulations as is – but for Giga Metals’ aim at the site. “Our goal is to be the world’s first carbon-neutral mine,” said Giga Metals’ President Martin Vydra in an update on the project this week. “We plan to use power from BC Hydro’s clean energy grid, which will involve more capital expenditure than the alternatives, but is the right thing to do. This exciting research now underway could help with our goal by providing a way to measure carbon uptake in our residue.”

Giga Metals is hoping that operating a truly carbon neutral mine will make it an attractive supplier of nickel and cobalt to companies at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution – companies like Tesla, who want to not only bring electric cars to the mass market, but to be seen to be an ethically responsible company in all aspects of its supply chain.

Tesla’s call for nickel

During Tesla’s recent quarterly conference call, Elon Musk called on miners to invest in sustainable nickel production in anticipation of shortages of the metal as production of electric vehicles increases over the next few years. Nickel consumption in electric vehicle batteries is expected to soar 64% between 2019 and 2025 according to research firm Wood Mackenzie.

“I’d just like to re-emphasise, any mining companies out there, please mine more nickel. Okay. Wherever you are in the world, please mine more nickel and don’t wait for nickel to go back to some long — some high point that you experienced some five years ago, whatever. Go for efficiency, obviously environmentally-friendly nickel mining at high volume. Tesla will give you a giant contract for a long period of time, if you mine nickel efficiently and in an environmentally sensitive way. So hopefully this message goes out to all mining companies. Please get nickel,” Musk said.

Tesla currently sources its batteries from South Korean and Japanese companies, both of which indirectly buy nickel from miners in a long supply chain. Tesla currently does not disclose which nickel miners are involved in its supply chain.

Giga Metals responds to Musk’s call for nickel

Responding to Musk’s call for Nickel last week, Giga Metals CEO Mark Jarvis said: “If you want environmentally-responsible nickel, I really think you have to look at sulphide deposits in first-world jurisdictions such as Canada and Australia. Canada has several very large, low-grade, open-pittable sulphide nickel deposits waiting to be developed, including Canada Nickel’s Crawford deposit, Waterton’s Dumont deposit and our own Turnagain deposit.  Canada has some of the toughest environmental regulations in the world, so if you buy your nickel from Canada, you can be assured that this part of your supply chain is ethically sourced.”

Canada has been touted as one potential country where Tesla could source the nickel it wants, with existing nickel mines as well as projects in the development pipeline. Canada also enforces stringent environmental regulations on its mines and that may provide solace to Tesla – the company has reportedly been looking to move away from cobalt in its batteries over ethical concerns.

Giga Metals’ carbon neutral mining plans

Giga Metals is proceeding the Turnagain project with a view to making it the world’s first carbon-neutral mine. To achieve that goal, the company is working in conjunction with Dr Greg Dipple of the University of British Columbia on a CO2 sequestration research programme.

“Dr Dipple has been studying carbon sequestration in silicate tailings for more than 15 years at sites including the Mt. Keith nickel mine in Australia and the Diavik diamond mine in Northern Canada,” Giga Metals said in a statement. “He has developed a methodology to measure the carbon uptake in silicate mine residue.  Acceptance of his methodology would mean that carbon credits could be obtained for mine site sequestration of carbon dioxide.  Once the silicates convert to carbonates, the CO2 is locked away for geological time scales.”

Vydra said that Musk’s call for sustainably sourced nickel has put the Turnagain project in the limelight: “Recent focus on ethical and sustainable development of nickel mines is drawing positive attention to Turnagain.  Over the last several years we have invested significant effort into engineering a zero-carbon footprint mine and we believe the time is right for the industry to move in this direction.”