Strategizing carbon-neutral mines: A case for pilot projects
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Ultramafic and mafic mine tailings are a valuable feedstock for carbon mineralization that should be used to offset carbon emissions generated by the mining industry. Although passive carbonation is occurring at the abandoned Clinton Creek asbestos mine, and the active Diavik diamond and Mount Keith nickel mines, there remains untapped potential for sequestering CO2 within these mine wastes. There is the potential to accelerate carbonation to create economically viable, large-scale CO2 fixation technologies that can operate at near-surface temperature and atmospheric pressure. We review several relevant acceleration strategies including: bioleaching of magnesium silicates; increasing the supply of CO2 via heterotrophic oxidation of waste organics; and biologically induced carbonate precipitation, as well as enhancing passive carbonation through tailings management practices and use of CO2 point sources. Scenarios for pilot scale projects are proposed with the aim of moving towards carbon-neutral mines. A financial incentive is necessary to encourage the development of these strategies. We recommend the use of a dynamic real options pricing approach, instead of traditional discounted cash-flow approaches, because it reflects the inherent value in managerial flexibility to adapt and capitalize on favorable future opportunities in the highly volatile carbon market.
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