UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Carbon Mineralization with North American PGM Mine Tailings—Characterization and Reactivity Analysis Woodall, Caleb M.; Lu, Xueya; Dipple, Gregory; Wilcox, Jennifer

Abstract

Global efforts to combat climate change call for methods to capture and store CO₂. Meanwhile, the global transition away from fossil energy will result in increased production of tailings (i.e., wastes) from the mining of nickel and platinum group metals (PGMs). Through carbon mineralization, CO₂ can be permanently stored in calcium- and magnesium-bearing mine tailings. The Stillwater mine in Nye, Montana produces copper, nickel, and PGMs, along with 1 Mt of tailings each year. Stillwater tailings samples have been characterized, revealing that they contain a variety of mineral phases, most notably Ca-bearing plagioclase feldspar. Increases in inorganic carbon in the tailings and ion concentration in the tailings storage facilities suggest carbonation has taken place at ambient conditions over time within the tailings storage facilities. Two experiments were performed to simulate carbon mineralization at ambient temperature and pressure with elevated CO₂ concentration (10% with N₂), revealing that less than 1% of the silicate-bound calcium within the tailings is labile, or easily released from silicate structures at low-cost ambient conditions. The Stillwater tailings could be useful for developing strategies of waste management as production of nickel and PGM minerals increases during the global transition away from fossil energy, but further work is needed to develop a process that can realize their full carbon storage potential.

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